“Help! My Daughter Won’t Sleep in Her Bed”

Help! My Daughter Won't Sleep in Her Bed

We had a problem…

My three-and-a-half year old, Hazel, wears sundresses in the winter, and ski boots in the summer. Instead of puzzles, we do nail polish. Instead of legos, she wants to freeze-dance. When she was a baby, she napped in restaurant nooks and on bookstore shag rugs, but never, ever, in a crib.

Suffice it to say: I am not a mother who ever got bedtime right.

I had Hazel on my own, as a single parent, so I assumed we’d be in survival mode for a few years. My expectations for structure and order were not high, nor were they all that important to me. She slept with me until I met my boyfriend, Sam, when she was six months old. When we became a family (insert heart emoji), I managed to get her to sleep in her crib and everyone felt like superheroes.

Then it all fell apart when she moved to a big-girl bed a year ago, at two-and-a-half years old.

That’s typically a tough transition for most kids, but other parents I knew seemed to buy books and talk to friends about how to handle it. Not us. We just put her in our bed. We figured that “life would work itself out.”

But 365 sleep-deprived nights later, life had not worked itself out.

Bedtime had become a really, really bad scene. I know families who happily and purposefully co-sleep, and that’s wonderful, but that was not our situation. It took two-and-a-half hours of books and lullabies and back tickles and cuddles to get Hazel to sleep (this was in our bed, no less), which put me, in particular, in the worst mood ever. We couldn’t “sneak out” until she was deep sleeping, as she’d wake at the slightest motion, heaven forbid we sneezed or smuggled in an iPhone to send work emails. The situation made it impossible to get work done, which was stressful for two freelancers who needed to make a living. It made it impossible for us to relax or unwind together. And it made it impossible to be intimate in any way. We’d try to move her in the middle of the night but she’d always wake up and freak out. We tried to orchestrate a sleepover with her cousin, as long as they stayed in Hazel’s bed, and I wound up taking my niece home even before lights off. We tried the old “be-right-back” trick. Nothing worked. While Hazel slept like a rock from 10:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., neither adult slept well with only two inches of personal space. The situation was dire. How did we get to this point?

So, I did something drastic: I decided to hire a sleep trainer. I also decided to write about it, so I’d be held accountable and actually follow directions. If you’re not sure what a sleep trainer is, their job is to take careful inventory of your entire bedtime situation, then create a plan for you to get things on track. The good ones have almost 100% success rates.

Andi Metzler and I hit it off immediately. It felt liberating to vent to someone who understood — and who had the tools to truly help. Her whole thing is: it works if you work, so I vowed to suppress my rebellious streak and step it up.

This was her general strategy:

Step 1: Prepare Her A week ahead of time, Andi had me psych up Hazel about sleeping in her own bed. This build-up included short Skypes with “Andi the Sleep Lady” who became a big, exciting name in our house. As our start night neared, Andi sent Hazel FaceTime videos of encouragement and a Daniel Tiger (her favorite!) book about bedtime. Also, we took Hazel shopping for comfy pajamas and got her room into extra-cozy shape.

Step 2: Prepare Her Bedroom. Andi sent us cute lists to help track Hazel’s new bedtime routine. Bath, brush teeth, pajamas, etc. — they each get a sticker when completed. We taped those up in her room, and I let Hazel buy stickers at her all-time favorite store, CVS.

Step 3: Survive the First Night. Night One was a Saturday. The plan was to get Hazel in her room, go through her sticker routine, and then some way, somehow, get her into her own bed. That was my only goal: Get her in that damn bed and keep her there, even with her eyes open all night. As predicted, she had the biggest tantrum of her life. When she finally calmed down, I asked her what I could do to make her less upset and we agreed to keep all the lights on her room — a big Andi no-no, but you do what you have to do. I stayed in her room, sitting on a chair next to the bed, until she was fast asleep about an hour later, then I tip-toed out. She woke up once in the middle of the night, and I sat in the chair until she fell back asleep, and then about an hour later, I tip-toed out.

Step 4: Do Not Engage. For the first three nights, Andi had me sit in that damn chair next to Hazel’s bed until she fell asleep with no talking and no engaging. You just sit there and say the occasional, “Goodnight, my love.” This made a lot of sense to me. You’re teaching your kid to fall asleep on his or her own, with the comfort of your being right there. After three nights of that, you move the chair to the doorway. And after three nights of the doorway, you move the chair out of the doorway. After three nights of that, YOU’RE FREE.

Truthfully, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. As I prepared Hazel for the sleep training, I also prepared myself. Was I stocked up on chocolate to comfort myself while my daughter shouted bloody murder? Yes. Did I need it? No. It was more like doing your taxes or going to the dentist… the kind of “adulting” you gotta do, and deal with. And it made me feel SO accomplished. That sense of responsibility has lifted me up in many other ways. I managed to sign Hazel up for a summer camp early, so I could get the early-bird special (what?!); I cleaned out her closet and my invoices; I made an onion and kale quiche — and gourmet overnight oats, for goodness sake.

It also made Hazel feel very good about herself. The mornings-after were not filled with guilt or trauma, rather glee and pride. We told everyone who would listen that she slept in her own bed and Hazel even asked to call “Andi the sleep lady” a few times to, well, brag! It took the full nine days — days and nights in which sleep training was my only priority — and the sacrifice has paid off indefinitely. We have a kid who’s a good sleeper (crazy), and we are now enjoying trying to make her a sibling — wink! Getting sleep under control has made life with my daughter, my sweetest dream, even sweeter.


How do you sleep as a family? Co-sleep? In separate rooms? Any aspects you’re struggling with? Any sleep approaches that have worked for you? xoxoxo

P.S. A family of five that chooses to co-sleep, and how we taught Toby to sleep as a baby. Plus, my biggest motherhood mantra.

(Photo by Courtney Rust/Stocksy.)

  1. Conny says...

    My daughter was a TERRIBLE sleeper…mostly day sleep when she was a baby. We coslept until she was 3, meaning she went to bed at nine and one of us had to stay wih her until she was totally out…maybe 1 hour or more, if not she got up, start crying and all over again and more difficult. When we decided it would be better to sleep in her own room, it turned out to be easier….a couple of nights I stayed by her side ( not in bed) and talked to her. Now she is 11 and Fridays she sleeps with us. I don’t think cosleeping is bad nor sleeping in different rooms…in fact is just sleeping and unless there is something else in the middle, is right.

  2. Taking Cara Babies will solve all yours problems. Hands down. Just contact her, worth every penny. She’s a wealth of balanced and supportive education.

    Ps. Love you’re name 😘

    Xoxo,
    Chelsi Jo

  3. Carolina says...

    I was losing my mind as an expat in Chile with a husband who has traveling 5 days a week and a 7 month old who woke up at least 5 times a night. YOU saved me! I looked up sleep training in your blog and found the article for Toby’s Sleep Training. I bought the book and I did it! It changed my life in every single way. So much so, I became a certified sleep coach! Not only I have slept full nights since my daughter was 8 months old (she’s 2 now), I have a new career that I absolutely love that I don’t need to give up every time we move! Thank you Joanna! I hope you have an idea of the depth of what you do through Cup of Jo!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      wow, that is incredible, carolina!!!! so happy for you (and all the families you’re helping)!!!

  4. Jennifer says...

    I co slept with my daughter until my son was born (she was 3). And my son is now 3.5, and he still sleeps with me. It’s been one of the greatest joys of my parenting journey, spending the night entwined in each others arms. I know I will miss it when it’s gone, and always cherish the memories.

  5. My daughter slept with me until she was 8 years old. I know I know terrible. It was just she and I for a very long time until I met my husband. It didn’t bother me then as much because I wasn’t in a relationship. However, I knew the time would come.

    Now that I’m pregnant, I am going to try really hard not to start co-sleeping with my son. I’m sure it is frustrating sleeping with 3 people.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Shena says...

    Everyone has their own way of parenting and I respect that. I let my daughter sleep in our bed until she finally stopped a couple of weeks ago and she is 10. I just didn’t ever want her to feel scared at home. Also, she is our baby and the other two are already teenagers. Now there isn’t going to be anymore kiddos sleeping in our beds and even though I’m getting some stellar sleep, I’m a bit sad about it.

  7. Tari says...

    It is lovely that Alyssa found a partner that she loves so dearly, but she was a “family” with her daughter as a single parent also.

    Single parents and their children are most definitely families too.

  8. Sasha L says...

    My wisdom, after 20 odd years of parenting, and nannying and doulaing, babies are as individual as we are. There’s no one right way for all babies (if only!), there’s not even one magical right way for each individual baby. Do what works for you and your baby and your family. You know all of those needs better than anyone, and you’ll make a good choice.

    Also, it gets better. IT GETS BETTER. It is absolutely the hardest thing ever when you are in it and it can seem like it never will get better, but it does, for everyone. (Disclaimer: by *better*, I really mean different. Yes, babies eventually become big kids who SLEEP! But, and this is the heart of being a parent, there will always, ALWAYS, be a problem, a need, a worry. They won’t always be as mind numbingly exhausting and grinding as baby sleep, but they will always tear at your heart. And in those moments with big kids, and adult kids, when it was horrible and scary, I have never once regretted the choices I made when they were little. I just did my best. You will/are doing/did do, too.)

  9. Kate says...

    When my son was 4 months old, he wasn’t sleeping well and I was really struggling, I was slipping into post natal depression. Did he nap too long, was it teeth, was he overtired, should I hold him, let him cry….etc.

    I googled and googled and I came to a realization that if there was only one to get a baby to sleep, there would only be one book about it. Each baby is different and each baby needs a different method to help them get to sleep. Trust your gut, only you know your baby and what s/he needs at the time.

    From the wise words on Cup of Jo, ‘babies be babies’

    • Caitlin says...

      Wise words that I needed this morning!!! Babies sure do be babies!

  10. Althea says...

    I can relate! Sleep training was especially hard with my little boy, as he had several ear infections and two respiratory infections before he was 18 months old. That made it really difficult for me to let him “cry it out.” There were a lot of nights where I slept on the floor by his crib. Thankfully, we persisted. He’s almost 2 now and, I’m happy to report, a wonderful sleeper!

    Dealing with sleep issues is so hard. I remember being on the brink of tears hearing aunts or friends or acquaintances tell me what worked with their kids and what I need to do. While intentions were good, it just made me feel so misunderstood and like they thought I just wasn’t doing it right. Each child is so different and you never know what someone is going through.

    Becoming a mother and experiencing how hard it can be has made me want to guard other parents so fiercely from the judgement of others. There’s nothing parents needs less than more judgement.

  11. Laura says...

    We also just went through this with our 2.5yo twins. One of them would SCREAM and cry every single night at bedtime, and I’d end up sitting in there cross-stitching until she was fully asleep and I could army-crawl out. I finally took a friend’s advice, which was that every time she popped out of bed, I put her back with no eye contact and said some variation of “time for bed, my love.” IT WORKED. I mean, the first night I probably put her back in bed 60 times, but it only took three nights until bedtime became drama-free. We just went on vacation and I was worried she’d regress, but it was this tiny house and the living room was basically outside their bedroom. I said mommy’s leaving, but I’ll cough when I get to where I’m going so you know I’m still close by. Worked like a charm and now that we’re back at home, they still ask me to cough, but I just do it on the landing outside their room and then proceed with my adult evening!

    Next up is binkies…one twin has lovies she’s super attached to, but the other has always relied on a binkie to self-soothe. I want to get rid of the binkie before age 3, but feel horribly guilty taking one’s comfort item away while the other gets to keep hers. :|

    • Marisa says...

      When my daughter turned 3, we told her that it was very important for 3 year olds to pass on their binkies to babies who needed them. We got a box and addressed it to “BABIES” and had her put them all in and tape it up, and we told her we were putting it in the mail. She was obsessed for three years and then never asked for them again after that day! I found the box when she was 6 and we were unpacking from moving into our new house, and I started sobbing instantly. I felt like I was ready to let go of them then.

    • Joy says...

      My dentist told me that loosing the binkies is not really a must before they turn 6/7 (!!). At that point they will grow adult teeth. Any impression the binkie has left on the baby teeth will not translate to the adult teeth.

      I am using this as an excuse to not remove my daughter’s binkie until she understands a bit better why (and I can actually explain it).

    • Kelly says...

      i don’t have twins, but I did have 2 binkie lovers, and absolutely dreaded taking the binkie away for each, and it was really really easier than i anticipated. for each, it was the first naptime and bedtime without binkie that were hard, and really no drama after that. good luck!

  12. Andrea says...

    Sleep is such an individual thing, and disordered sleep is really common among kids. There’s some literature that theorizes that the uptick in ADHD diagnoses is actually largely caused by mis-diagnosed disordered sleep. My son has sleep apnea that was “cured” (according to his doctor who did not run a follow up sleep study) by having his tonsils and adenoids out at 3. He was re-diagnosed at 6 and is now sleeping with a CPAP. His disordered sleep started around his second birthday, and just about everything I thought I knew about it from the reading I did was wrong. All that to say, if your kiddo just doesn’t sleep where/when you want them to, sleep train! But if things are weird with their sleep, see your pediatrician before you try anything else. And be explicit – had I explained the “night terrors” that I thought my son was having instead of just calling them night terrors, we would have all realized sooner that what was happening to him was clinically nothing like a night terror. Good luck mamas – sleep problems are no joke!

  13. My daughter has been having the same problem of sleeping at night.Its nice to know that am not alone thanks for the post.

  14. Ari says...

    Something my own parents did, which I look back on and realize is genius, is that they didn’t let me sleep IN their bed, they let me sleep ON their bed. As a youngster, I would have nights where I would insist I wanted to sleep with them, or woke up in the night unable to settle myself. They allowed me to bring my blanket in and curl up in a ball on the end of their bed. It meant I got the comfort of being near them, but never interpreted their bed as MY bed. And it also maintained the understanding that my bed was where I slept and got truly comfortable; their bed was only a place to go when I had had nightmares etc. It’s something I intend to employ for my own kids someday.

    My mom and grandmother also swear by the rule that your baby never ever sleeps in your room. They sleep in their room from night one. They put full size beds in their kids’ rooms from the start for convenience for mom (passing out while breastfeeding) and smooth transitioning from crib to big kid bed. None of us had any difficulty sleeping in our own room, our own crib, or adjusting to our own bed. Again, rules I intend to follow someday.

    Everyone’s family and child is different but this is what has worked for us for generations!

    • A says...

      This strongly goes against all medical advice, in the UK anyway, which is that an infant should sleep in the same room as their caregiver for the first 6 months of life. Preferably for the first year. This is to reduce risk of SIDS. But even without this advice it makes no sense to me that an infant mammal should be sundered from its food and comfort source 50% of the time. Who honestly thinks this is a good idea? Are we Victorians?

  15. Rachel says...

    Yayyyy!! Kudos to you!!
    My husband and i are trying to have kids, and stories about kids not eating and not sleeping come up so much and terrify me! It is so great to hear a success story.

    • Finn says...

      Don’t let it scare you! I think probably ninety percent of sleep problems are self made. Read up on sleep before having a baby and go in with a game plan. Start early. Like super early. Like six weeks old early. Babies are born with the ability to put themselves to sleep and you just have to maintain it. My six month old has fallen asleep in his crib every night on his own and sleeps through the night and has pretty much done so since he was two months old, with the exception of teething and fevers and such. It doesn’t have to be a nightmare for years and years :) Of course if you want to co sleep or whatever that’s also great – but it will mean having to wean eventually.

    • Mona says...

      Rachel – I feel you. We have an 8 week old and it’s nothing one can prepare for completely. I was in shock the first 3-4 weeks and it’s horrible to say but I felt regret the first weeks, I felt like I had destroyed our life and thought I would never sleep or laugh again. But it grows on you, and now, just 3 weeks later, everything feels great and when the baby started smiling my heart melted. Go for it! This is from a woman who wanted the stork to come and take the baby back just a few weeks ago. And trust your gut, no one knows your baby like you do, because you grow together.

  16. Brady says...

    We have two kids, 4 and 2, who share a room. When the little one started climbing out of his crib and we moved him into his own bed our lives looked very much like the “before” description in this post. I would cry almost nightly about how bad/disrespectful my kids seemed, how tired I was, and how I never got any time to myself. Things are much better now but it took lots and lots of work and problem solving. It’s always nice to hear that others are going through something similar and that our family isn’t somehow broken! :)

  17. Tess Williams says...

    This is super impressive to me in terms of self discipline on your part!! and doesn’t sound overly harsh at all.

  18. TennesseeCassie says...

    I have 3 kids who have all slept differently from birth. At 8, 14, and 16, they still have those same sleep patterns! There’s a reason there’s a big gap between the older 2 and the youngest; the older 2 are not sleepers! The 8 year old is the GREATEST sleeper, which I think of as my reward for not losing my mind with the olders.
    A few things that helped:
    Clear boundaries of what I was ok with. Be clear, no resentment! They pick up on it and then it’s an awful night show of bad feelings.
    When instituting a change in boundaries, get lots of naps the week before. Tryyyy to catch up on some sleep. Ask friends and family for extra help, have a friend on speed dial that you can cry to that isn’t your partner. Lean on your whole community; they have been there!
    Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Our culture’s pendulum swings wildly back and forth on this. It’s ok to say no, even everyday. They need it. It’s the first teaching of consent, and especially if it involves bedroom rules (in a nonsexual way), you are teaching them how to interact with another person involving those rules and that location.
    It does get better, even if they don’t sleep wonderfully, because they can start to self-play as they get older.

    • Bev says...

      OMG
      “ let your yes be yes and your no be no” our cultures pendulum swings wildly back and forth on this.”
      I have worked with children for 15 years and if that doesn’t sum up so many issues that turn into huge problems I don’t know what does.
      If YOU are the parent YOU are responsible for every habit, guideline and boundary your kids need.

    • Sasha L says...

      Overheard from a sweet mom who’s son I care for in my preschool “I know I’m not supposed to say no…..”
      Me: “wait, what? Yes you are. Yes you can say no to your child.”
      She: “all the books tell you not to say no. (Sheepishly) but we do anyways.”

      Guess what? I already knew that, because her little boy is a joy. He’s polite, kind, fun, so happy and he follows our school rules easily. And he’s not even two yet. He’s also parented with love and laughter and real affection.

      If you want your child to be able to cope when the world says no, you better give them some practice. And if you want them to be happy and secure and a joy to be around, you better create consistent boundaries that your child can depend upon. Those things certainly involve saying no, saying it with conviction and finality. No is a complete sentence.

  19. Carrington says...

    I feel ALL OF THIS.
    2.5 years of bad to mediocre sleep – biggest regret of my parenting career was the toddler bed.
    Going to open a good wine and try the method of putting back 4K times and see if it works :)

  20. Inge says...

    We always try to avoid going into the bedroom again but we do use the baby unit a lot. The first days my first born slept in an adult sized bed, he called for us a lot. We ensured him through the baby unit that we were downstairs and most of the time, that was enough.

    Now we have a new baby in the house, he’s slept at other houses a few nights while we were in hospital, and he’s insecure again, afraid that we’ll leave him. He needs reassurance we are here. So every time he calls for us, we ensure through the baby unit we are just downstairs. Yesterday I had to do it 4 times, but it gets better within 3-4 evenings.

    What also helps, is referring to children of his class or his teacher, who are also sleeping in their bed right now. That seems to bring a lot of consolation also.

    For ourselves, we always had the rule that no child is allowed to sleep in our bed. We did spent a lot of hours in a rocking chair in their room in return, but our bed is still ours. Cuddling in our bed during weekend mornings is definitely allowed though :-)

  21. Steph says...

    My eldest was an amazing sleeper until she turned 2 1/2 – looking back we were starting to potty train, we had just been overseas, she switched to a big girls bed and then we also took her dummy away. How did we think that was going to go down?? We planned everything around our trip to Japan; let her have her dummy till we get back, keep her in nappies till we get back, get her used to a big girls bed incase there isn’t a cot… post-trip we honestly had 6 months straight of her waking up 4 times a night screaming bloody murder, I was also expecting and she was more restless than our newborn. She ended up sleeping in her dads room while I stayed in the babies. We have only really gotten over this in the past few months, she is 4 1/2 now and as soon as we moved her in with her sister, she has been fine. She was just lonely and scared and couldn’t articulate this to us. Fingers crossed we never have to go through that again! It all feels like a blur now at least ;)

  22. I think a kid that doesn’t sleep is different from a kid that wants to sleep in your bed. If your kid is not a good sleeper, then it doesn’t matter where he/she sleeps–you’re going to do what you have to do to get your kid to sleep. I have a kid that sleeps just fine but wants to sleep in our bed, so I let him. If I put him to sleep in his own bed, he comes in at 2am anyway and crawls in without waking us up. I know he won’t do it forever because I have two older children who did the same thing, and now sleep in their own beds every night. You do what works for you. It’s all good. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    • Anastasia Levadas says...

      This is exactly my situation. We do bedtime in my daughter’s room and bed but inevitable she ends up in ours, also around 2am. Often she doesn’t even wake us, which is great because we’re all getting rest. Yes, I wish her sleep was uninterrupted and that she would sleep through the night in her bed, but she does fall right back to sleep. It’s not like she’s up for 2 hour playing and refusing to sleep, which would definitely be a problem.

  23. Vicky says...

    Dalorean, we were in a similar situation with our 3,5 year old – who had always been a terrible sleeper. At some point she started waking up every night and either coming to our bed or wanting me to stay next to hers for hours or she’d have a meltdown. Then one very, very tired night I tried something new. When she came to our bed, I gave her a cuddle and asked her to go into her room, put some music on, and hop into bed, and if she stayed quiet for a bit I would go. She complained a bit but I just kept saying: If you are quiet and calm
    I will come. And when she quieted down I did go, as promised. I gave her a cuddle, and repeated a few times that I will awlays be there if she needs me, and I made a deal with her: I said I will leave the doors open and she can call me whenever she is worried and I will always call back so that she knows I am there. I also gave her my pyjama top to cuddle. For the first night, we kept calling back and forth for HOURS but she stayed in bed!!! and eventually fell asleep. Since then, our lives have changed!! now when she wakes up she comes into our bedromm, gets a quick cuddle, and goes back to her room, turns on the baby music thingy, cuddles my pyjama and goes back to sleep. Maybe you can try something similar? It is a good age because they can ubderstand when yountalk to them, and they trust you a lot, so if you say something and then do it they are happy. Best of luck!!

  24. Andrea says...

    One idea I haven’t seen particularly for older kids who want to sleep in parents’ beds.. have a separate mattress, air mattress, or sleeping bag on the floor of your room for your child. Let them know if they come into your room at night they can sleep on the mattress but can’t wake you or get in your bed. If they wake you or get in your bed take them back to their own bed. Sometimes kids get scared and just want to be close to their parents – I remember feeling that way as a kid – but the coziness of a parent’s bed is a hard habit to break. Having a less comfortable sleeping spot and no positive reinforcement from parents at night sometimes can stop the middle-of-the-night roaming.

    I am a poor sleeper even under the best of circumstances, and a horrible human being if I’m sleep deprived. I’m also not safe as a driver or worker or a parent. To suggest that my children aren’t attached or well adjusted because I didn’t sacrifice years of my life to sleep with them is not fair and certainly not true.

    • Rosie says...

      Thank you! We adore our daughter, but attachment parenting was not for us. She isn’t poorly adjusted because of it. I love how independent she is and she advocates for what she needs in a way that I don’t see from other kindergarteners because she knows she won’t get it if she can’t articulate why she wants it. It is so hard to dig up sympathy for parents who get woken up at night when they never placed boundaries to keep it from happening. What did you expect? I know they have their reasons too, but dang! It’s kind of the same with food for us. She is so picky, but she knows she has to clear her plate or she isn’t leaving the table. If we’re testing something new we put a small amount of it on her plate and tell her that when she finishes it she gets something she likes that we’ve already made or she can have more of what she’s testing. One Brussel sprout or two bites of tuna and you can have all the mac and cheese your heart desires. Boundaries, y’all.

  25. Erin says...

    We have two kids 3 and 5 who both have what our sleep consultant labeled as “FOMO” – fear of missing out. They were allergic to sleep unless they were with us. The phrase she gave us as we got them in their rooms was “I love you. It’s time for bed. I will check on you soon.” Then you go back in a couple minutes, 5 minutes, 10, extending the time until they’re asleep. Best money spent was on a sleep consultant.
    I remember being so tired; if you’re in the throes of that now, support from family or friends to get a break is key. Be kind to yourself; there’s no one perfect way.

  26. Kate says...

    Here’s the thing. I nannied for 10 years, and helped facilitate sleep training for children ranging from newborns to teens. Every child was different. Even within the same family! It’s never easy navigating through growth spurts, colds, setting the clocks back, setting the clocks forward, skipped naps, late bedtimes… etc. so after all of these experiences, before I became a Mom, I thought I had alllll the answers for allllll the situations. (We all laugh at our pre-parent selves, right?) Welp, turns out nannying and mothering are two very different animals. My son is a great sleeper, but I’ve experienced many other challenges that have humbled me time and time again. When in doubt do what feels right for your family, trust your gut (let me say that again TRUST YOUR GUT), ask for help and be kind to yourself. <3

    • Inge says...

      Trust your gut is the best parenting advice anyone can ever give. Everyone and every child is different, just trust your gut and everything will be alright in the end.

    • Justine Clark says...

      I love your trust your gut advice so much. That is the best advice any parent can be given, for so many ages and stages.

  27. G says...

    My first was born sick and I never wanted him out of my sight! He slept on me or with me for every nap and bedtime. The hardest part was laying down for up to an hour waiting for him to fall asleep! So much missed relaxation time for me. We co-slept for a year, until he was waking up to nurse 8 times a night or more. I was so exhausted – I knew it was time for a change. We transitioned him to his own room gradually. With my husband sleeping with him on a mattress on the floor for a few weeks, giving him bottles on demand. Slowly he ate less, woke less, and we eventually got him into a crib. I had to be out of the equation – I was too tempting ! Ha. I didn’t want to relive this experience with my second, so whenever he fell asleep – even as a newborn, I always put him in a bassinet or crib. I’m still a little sad that I missed out on so many little baby snuggles, my second has been comfortable sleeping apart from me from the start. Now they both go to sleep fairly easily and sleep all night. And I am so greatful for that, but I have residual insomnia I think from my sleep patterns being disturbed for so long —- I hope it goes away !!!

  28. Margot says...

    I happily and blissfully co-sleep with my 3.5 year old. I cherish it. I sneak into our shared bed about 3 hours after she does & no matter how stealth I am within less than 5 minutes she physically finds her way to me and either props her leg up me or holds my hair. I can’t fall asleep until she does this. Before becoming a parent I never would have imagined this would be our sleeping arrangement and it’s been one of the most unexpected pleasures of mine. She sleeps for 12 hours & I sleep for 9.

  29. Robin says...

    Omg it’s crazy what we put ourselves through. Congratulations for making a big change happen! For anyone looking for advice, I love precious little sleep – there’s a book as well as website and fb group. She’s lovely, not wedded to any camp, and funny – highly recommend!

    • KL says...

      I second this!

  30. Katherine says...

    This is so timely – I am starting sleep training tonight with my 5.5 month old. She was in a Rock-n-Play by my bed for the first months, then I was out of town with her last week and she refused the Pack-n-Play so she slept in the bed with me. Now we’re about to try a transition to her crib and I wonder if we’ve just taken two giant steps back since for the past week she’s slept with me. I’m determined to do what it takes to make this transition stick (was gonna try at 4 months but she had terrible sleep regression as it was; didn’t think adding a crib to the mix would make sense for either of us). Thanks for all the recommendations and reassurance from the comments; it helps make this venture into the unknown a lot less overwhelming.

  31. Leslie says...

    In my experience and my kids are older now – it never gets figured out, it’s never perfect; there is no one solution. What works now won’t work in a year and you’ve gotta adapt. My kids slept with us, on floor by us, us with them, them together (currently working), same room different beds, one sleepover with mom a week if they sleep in their own beds… and on and on. My husband and I haven’t failed and we’ve spent a great deal of time reading sleep training books and they worked until they didn’t. Just keep trying you’re doing great and sooner than you’ll know it or be ready for it they’ll be grown.

  32. Alicia Maher says...

    Oh my… sleep. How timely! Our baby’s sleep has been a dark cloud over my head for months now. Baby guy is 7 months old and sleeping in my bed (I say, “my” because my husband has temporarily moved to sleeping on the floor of the playroom! Not ideal…). He nurses every two hours during the night and is held for every nap (if not napping in the carrier or carseat). We definitely need to make a change and help this guy fall asleep on his own, in his crib. As cuddly as co-sleeping can be, I don’t sleep well doing it and don’t feel that baby is sleeping as well as he could be. Also, I start a new work-from-home job next week and need (NEED!) the naptime to do work. I don’t remember what it’s like not to be exhausted and I daydream about sharing a room with my husband again! Ultimately, we want baby guy to move in with his older brother (aged 7, who is really into the idea), but that can’t happen until he is sleeping in his crib solidly through the night. Somehow, we helped his older brother sleep better as a baby (though, now that he is older, he wants someone with him while he falls asleep!), but I am really struggling this time around. I think a part of me believes that I don’t deserve good sleep and that I would have to make my baby suffer in order to make good sleep happen for all of us. Good thing I am bringing a therapist on board this week! Sleep is so complex…sheesh.

  33. Outside your demographic, but love the blog. I had my daughter about 36 years ago. She was a bad sleeper and we co-slept for a long time. When she was about 5, I took her to buy sleep crystals – rose quartz for under the bed which I assured her was a magical sleep crystal full of love, and a small amethyst for under her pillow to take away any bad dreams. It actually worked and now she does it with her two small kids.

  34. Liz says...

    First time mom of a 7 month old who has hated sleep since birth. In these 7 months I have felt guilty, like a failure, a bad mom etc. Things improved with sleep training (taking cara babies!) but some nights are great and others nights, like tonight, all hell breaks loose. I had no idea sleep would be such a journey and all consuming. Sleep deprivation nearly broke me emotionally and mentally. I have been humbled by having a difficult sleeper. It’s truly the hardest thing I have ever dealt with in my life. A good therapist and my utterly devoted husband have helped pull me out of some dark emotional times. To all the mamas who suffer, I deeply feel those dark middle of the nights, you aren’t alone.

    • Abesha1 says...

      My first never slept for more than an hour or so at a time for more than 8 months … but he’s 6 now and sleeps 12 hours a night. It will get better.

  35. Kelly says...

    My nine year old STILL comes into our bed most nights in the middle of the night. My husband and I have a king bed so we often don’t even hear her come in! She knows it’s wrong and feels some guilt about it, but we can’t break her of it. To tell the truth, we haven’t really tried as hard as we should. We have two other kids and are just too tired to deal most of the time. But, I know we should try harder. Has anyone had any success breaking this habit with an older child??

    • Hi Kelly I am a sleep consultant in Canada @jesswhitesleep and work with a lot of families who have older children. As with all my families, I spend time understanding and getting to the root of the why and then building out a plan to address why the child still needs the reassurance in the middle of the night. In a lot of cases, sleep with older children is daytime work and doesn’t require behaviour modification. I believe sleep work involves looking at the whole wheel of health when making changes in how things have looked previously. As another person commented earlier, it’s working until it isn’t and then we make shifts. There is no wrong or right and I feel like once we as parents can truly integrate and accept that, there will be less anxiety and judgment around sleep.

    • Laura says...

      Sending them off to college usually works.

    • Kay says...

      My daughter started doing this around 9-10 too, to the point that we put a trundle bed under our king that she could just roll out. Even if she started in her own bed, she always crept down in the night, no matter what we tried. My husband would get grumpy but truth be told, I only have one kiddo and I knew I would miss her one day and wish she would want to be that close to me, so I decided to just go with it. Sure enough, after about a year, she suddenly just started sleeping in her own bed. And I miss her. But my husband and I are happier and better rested and so is she, so it’s all good.

    • Kristie says...

      I use to have bad dreams as a kid (still do actually), and so I would end up tiptoeing into my parents’ bed to feel safe again – my mum has since told me that she would let me calm down and drift off in between her and dad, then pile on the blankets til I got too hot and stuffy, then I take myself back to my own bed! Not sure if that helps, but also it’s sweet that your nine year old still needs a little cuddle here and there.

    • Dani says...

      Why is it wrong? I’d suggest just taking the guilt away. Kids need their parents during the night sometimes. It’s okay! :)

    • bisbee says...

      My grandson is 10 and sleeps in his parent’s bed most nights. I have stayed over for a week or more on occasion so my son and DIL can vacation. I didn’t allow him to sleep with me in their bed…just insisted he sleep in his own room. Sometimes he slept with his sister (she has a queen bed). Of course, often kids listen to anyone other than a parent!

    • Jo says...

      Our 5.5 yo ear old son has wanted to co-sleep since birth. My husband and I have been getting up to resettle him in his bed multiple times a night, every night! Finally while on vacation we decided to try letting him get in bed with us during the night, thinking if it made our nights worse we could return to the “normal” routine at home. We were surprised to discover how pleasant the nights were, we all slept so well and after a few nights didn’t even notice him getting into bed. It’s been about three months now and I actually doze off looking forward to waking up with him snuggled in. Maybe just enjoy this special time?

    • K.C. says...

      Honestly, she won’t do it forever! If it doesn’t bother all of you, “this too shall pass”. If she does sneak in on her prom night, I’d consider yourself lucky. ; )

    • M F says...

      You are not alone. We have 3 – I totally get it. Hang in there Mama.

  36. Claire says...

    As I look back on my two years of motherhood so far, especially early struggles with breastfeeding and how badly I beat myself up whenever my milk supply dropped, or how much I hated myself for occasionally letting my baby cry longer than I maybe should have because I desperately needed a moment to recharge, I have come to the realization that I should have been a better friend to myself. In experiences where I would have said to my friends, “this is so hard, you’re doing a great job and making the choices that are best for you and your family” I instead told myself every time that I was failing and needed to be doing better. Articles on parenting decisions are destined to bring comments that hit some of us in our sore spots, the places where we feel the biggest sense of failure.

    We don’t all have to make the same choices. We shouldn’t. We’re all raising different, unique humans.

    No matter what choices you make in your parenting, in birth, in breastfeeding, in sleeping and so on: Be a friend to yourself. This is so hard. You’re doing a great job.

    • Robin says...

      Yes <3

    • Laura says...

      Thank you Claire.

    • Natalie says...

      “Be a friend to yourself” is such great advice! XO

  37. Cynthia says...

    I also put night lights in my girls’ rooms when they were little.

    • Jackie says...

      Yes! My friends and I all have had success with that kind approach.

    • J says...

      YES. The Happy Sleeper was and is a lifesaver. Hands down the best parenting book we own.

  38. Lisa says...

    Any suggestions on getting a toddler to sleep in? My daughter wakes up every morning at 5am, in the dot. It started last summer and I thought it was to do with the daylight but … it’s April now nearly a year later and still. We’ve tried cutting her down to one nap (painful) or putting her to sleep later, but nothing works. Her brother is the total opposite and would sleep until 8 if he could

    • cg says...

      How old is she? We put a clock in her room and told her she could play until “the hands are here and here” (you decide and an mark with a little sticker). We also told her that she could come to our room if she was sick, or on fire. (the last part was sort of a joke).

    • Rosie says...

      Not for nothing, but I have a coworker who started locking her son in his room when he kept waking them up before 6 and he survived. She put duct tape over the minutes on an alarm clock and taught him that the door would open when the number turned 6. They held up their end of the bargain and always opened it when they said they would and after a week they left the door unlocked and he didn’t “break out.”

    • Hilary says...

      Check out Taking Cara Babies! Her blog and instagram talks about EMW (early morning wakings) and ways to troubleshoot.

    • Caitlin says...

      We had a similar issue with our toddler a month or two ago, waking up between 4 and 5 all chipper and ready to go for the day. What seems to have worked (fingers crossed!) is cutting down his morning nap. He was sleeping about 90 minutes each am/pm, but now we wake him up after 45 minutes in the morning, and he is happily sleeping until 6am (ok, sometimes 5:45) 🙌🙌

      Good luck! And coffee!!

    • Kat says...

      Don’t know how old she is but my son did that for a while. For him it turned out he wasn’t getting enough calories during the day so he would wake early. Once we upped the fat content in his diet he started sleeping until 8 :)

    • Kate says...

      Have you tried an earlier bed time? Sometimes when toddlers are down to one nap, being over-tired messes with their night-time sleep/wake-up.. I recently had to adjust my son’s bedtime earlier (he’s 22 months) because he was taking forever to settle down! He would talk and talk in his crib for over an hour sometimes. Now if we get him in with-in the 6:30-6:45pm window, boom, he sleeps right away! They say “sleep begets sleep” and they, whoever they are, seem to be right. ;) Good luck!

    • Megan Sealock says...

      Earlier bedtime! It works!

    • Holly says...

      In addition to the other comments, make sure you’re not doing something first thing in the morning that she’s excited about/looking forward to, like getting screen time or super fun mommy time. We had this issue with our one-year-old and it stopped when I stopped giving her a morning nurse. Good luck!

    • Rachel says...

      We use a night light that changes color when it’s ok to get out of bed. Our child is kind of a rule follower though, so it works really well for him. We told him he can leave his room if he needs to go to the bathroom, but has to go right back in after. We had a cheaper light that broke and splurged for a Hatch Baby Rest, and love it.

    • Lisa says...

      Thanks all! She’s 16 months old so a bit young for the clock idea, but I’ll try some of these others.

      She is always asking for bananas when she wakes up so it might be hunger.

  39. Jackie says...

    Love Alyssa – always want more of her on Cup of Jo! Xo Jackie

  40. Abesha1 says...

    FWIW, I’m a full-term-breastfeeding cosleeper, currently gently encouraging night weaning with my second child at 3 yrs old. Yes, folks, I’m tired. Aren’t we all?

    I find the author’s comment that she never got bedtime right, irritating and sad. Sounded like it worked great for a long time, actually. And then , as happens in life with kids, it didn’t, and a change was needed. Not a big deal, really.

    • Kelly says...

      Your comment seems harsh to me. Brushing off this woman’s experience and others’ experiences with fatigue seems unnecessary and odd to me. Fatigue due to sleep issues with my son was one of the most difficult issues I’ve dealt with, and it affected every facet of my life. This experience most certainly seems to be a big deal to this author as well as many others here in the comments. I can’t relate to the desire to dismiss someone else’s suffering, no matter how common it may seem.

    • Ellie says...

      Yes! That particular phrase hit a chord with me too. Just because a child isn’t in a crib at a certain age doesn’t mean anyone has failed. Just that that child’s parents were sensitive to their particular needs at that time of their life. And that’s a parenting win to me. Then, of course, when something changes and is no longer working, you adapt! I think we as women and mothers say things like ‘we got it wrong, etc’ too much and owe it to ourselves to stop blaming ourselves when something we do as parents isn’t necessarily traditional. We know our kids better than anyone, and do what we need to do to make them feel comfortable and secure. End of story!

    • Rae says...

      I gently suggest Abesha1 that you may find her comment irritating and sad because you are tired. I found so many things irritating and sad when I was overtired with young babes. Be gentle to yourself and others right now.

    • Emily Tan says...

      In defence of Abesha1 – I think she finds the author beating herself up about not getting “bedtime right” (a mythical concept) irritating and sad. I do too – it’s awful how we can be so hard on ourselves for not attaining the unattainable. She was doing fine because it works. To blame herself for doing such a great job is rather sad isn’t it?

    • Abesha1 says...

      Thanks for the replies… I was aiming for sarcastic empathy… all parents are tired, and I meant, I absolutely understand the tiredness. I was sad she criticized her earlier success.

  41. Kelly says...

    Has anyone had issues beyond bedtime, such as night wakings? My son went through a period of waking every few hours. This lasted months. My husband and I thought we were losing our minds.

    • My 3.5 year old sleeps in his own bed. However he wakes up in the middle of the night EVERY NIGHT and comes to get in our bed. We all cant fit, so hubs gets up and heads to our sons bed!
      This has been going on since my 3.5 year old suddenly started doing this about 9 months ago. And there’s no end in sight!
      Obviously a meltdown which ends up waking up his little brother in the other room if I try and take him back to his bed.
      Any advice?!

  42. Amy says...

    My nephew is five and has some mild behavioural issues (SPD, I think?) and when they were doing the testing, they discovered he was low on iron. Lo and behold – he started sleeping better once his iron stores were supplemented! I thought low iron led to fatigue and it does, but being low in iron can also increase anxiety which lowers melatonin production, making falling asleep difficult. Vitamin D apparently also plays a part in sleeping well; I live where it is frequently overcast and our latitude means we don’t get strong sunlight here so the kids and I take vitamin D supplements as recommended by the Canadian government.

  43. Dee says...

    This is what my mom did for me as a child, particularly after my parents got divorced- the closer and closer to the door trick. I think I was comforted by her general presence. When I woke up and wanted to crawl into her bed she had me create a “nest” on the floor next to her with my duvet and pillows instead. Eventually I got tired of sleeping on the carpeted floor and stopped waking up in the night altogether

  44. H says...

    There’s a lot of privilege in buying new books, jammies, and other items for a bedroom in hopes that your little one starts sleeping better. I’ve seen the “buy more things” suggestion often and while I’m sure it’s exciting for kids, I think it sends the wrong message. We don’t need new things to learn a lot of skills.

    I found steps 2-4 to be very helpful and as a parent of two small children I loved seeing this topic today!

    • Madeleine says...

      Great point. I imagine you could replicate that aspect of the process by sticking up kid artwork, making the bed together, arranging the room… no need to buy new things. Seems like the main point is to get them involved & excited about having their own space to sleep in…

    • Rosie says...

      It never hurts to have an extra set of jammies! Part of why I think our switch to a big girl bed went so smoothly is we let her be involved in setting her room up. She tested mattresses with me and picked out her own bedding. We could have just thrown an old duvet and some mismatched sheets on the bed, but having our space is really important to us and making her room her space helped draw the line. Picking out new jammies for something new kind of sets the tone.

    • Becca says...

      I’m with you on this one. We can discuss the bedtime routine, create songs about it, draw out each step together, and build excitement rather than expectations concerning presents.

    • H says...

      Rosie, I’m sure your daughter loved putting her room together! My point wasn’t to judge those who do buy things to encourage healthy sleep habits. I’ve purchased many swaddles new and used trying to get a few extra minutes of sleep. When I read this I thought about how expensive hiring a sleep trainer is, and how spending disposable income on an extra set of jammies, bedroom accessories etc excludes those with tighter budgets. I would have liked to see some ideas that Madeleine suggested in the blog post as well.

  45. I love this so much as your plan helped establish trust with your daughter around sleep and her room and made her feel empowered about her role in the changes! Amazing!!! I am the mother of 3 very different sleepers and a sleep consultant in Canada. I know through personal experience and my practice, that sleep work is extremely emotional and that every individual and family situation is different. There really is no one way to approach making changes and a strategy that works for one family is not necessarily going to work for another. I really feel strongly that as parents we’re not just doing sleep “training”, but emotionally supporting all parties involved, including ourselves! If parents are anxious or uncertain then sleep ‘training’ can be unsustainable. It’s about building confidence in the ‘why’ and taking it at a pace that is manageable.

    • Lena says...

      Jessica, you sound amazing. It’s refreshing to hear an expert in the field remind all of us that there’s no one way to go about it. I wish I had known of you a few years ago! You have the approachable approach I desperately needed.

  46. Louisa says...

    I was just telling my friend that, as a kid, I would never have thought to get into my parents’ bed. It would have been as weird as deciding to wear their underwear or use their toothbrushes. And now my kid climbs into our bed most nights. Along with the dog. It’s crowded.

    • Anna says...

      Ha, same! I remember waking up in the night and feeling *so* lonely as a kid, but I would never have gotten in their bed! Now my younger son comes in our bed almost every night and the older one only very rarely. Plus two dogs. But at least, it’s very cozy!

    • Vicky says...

      It is interesting you guys should say that because it was the same for me! I don’t know what it was about that generation – I suppose they were told that the best things for kids is to let them tough it out, become independent, blah blah blah. Sometimes I feel a bit sad for my mum that she didn’t get to have all those cuddles that I am now having with my daughter, probably because of “expert advice” at the time. My daughter had always wanted some kind of contact in the night, and I was always more than happy to get the cuddles. We have recently found strategies that allow everyone to get the sleep they need, or maybe be has outgrown the need for cuddles a bit (*sigh*), but I am happy that I never withheld the cuddles when she needed them, because I don’t want her to have that feeling of loneliness at night that I also remember.
      I remember telling my aunt recently that when my husband is away for work, she comes and crawls into bed in the middle of the night and we sleep the rest of the night together, and she said “oh if you don’t teach her to stop it now she will just keep doing it”, and I thought, but, especially while my husband is away, why would I ever want her to stop it??? In fact, she will grow out of it all by herself and I am sure I will be quite sad when the day comes :-/.

  47. RV says...

    Sigh. My boy (now 5 1/2) was a great sleeper as a baby until 2 1/2 when he started climbing out of the crib and running to our room. Fast forward 3 years and he’s still there, which makes my dating life as a now -single mother hella complicated! I actually don’t mind him being in my bed, it’s my needing to lay down with him until he falls asleep (which can take up to an hour, half the time during which I end up falling asleep myself and/or losing my will to do anything productive after he sleeps) that’s the big problem. Well that and the fact that he will wake up after a couple of hours on his own without fail and look for me hysterically (he’s scared of the dark). I’ve tried nightlights, I’ve tried bribing him with a quarter for each day he stayed in his bed until 5-6am (that worked semi-OK, need to go back to it maybe). Anyway, just to say – I feel the pain! And welcome any tips that anyone has.

  48. Gemma says...

    LOVE this. I recently sleep-trained our third… and I had just the same ‘gotta be done’ feeling. I listened to podcasts and set the timer on my phone to go in and comfort him every three minutes. And it was so much easier than I anticipated – the anticipation was the worst. (As it always is, about everything!)

  49. Rosie says...

    My wife and I both work jobs with extremely long hours and there is no way we would function if we were woken up in the night. We never did the bassinet next to the bed and our daughter has not slept in our bed once in five years. She is not allowed in our room. FULL STOP. We had a baby monitor until she was out of her crib at about age 3. Then the rule became that she could only come to the door of our room if she had vomited without making it to the toilet or she couldn’t breathe. From there she has to call for us from the doorway. The logic being that if she truly needed us she would do it regardless, but because she has clear rules about when it is okay to wake us up we haven’t had to deal with a single nightmare and she is extremely good at self-soothing. We knew we were going to make this rule very early on and chose to toilet train at 16 months that way good habits were established and we didn’t need to worry about bed wetting. We were concerned that we were being too tough and a lot of our friends can’t believe how strict we are, but our pediatrician thinks it is fabulous. My friends have so many complaints about getting their kids to sleep and getting woken up in the night and we never gave her that option, so we don’t have problems with it. When one person goes into work around 6:30 and doesn’t get home until 7 most days and the other goes in at 8 and gets home sometime between 8 and midnight you just can’t have a little one crawling into bed at 3. Works for us, but it definitely isn’t for everyone. I love my munchkin, but I need my sleep.

    • Molly says...

      Word. Just don’t make it an option.

    • Rebecca says...

      Rosie, this is stated more eloquently than my earlier comment that pretty much got bashed by other commenters. But, agree with Molly, word, just don’t make it an option. *unless, obviously, there are health issues

    • Alex says...

      How did you potty train at 16 months ??

    • Abby says...

      Great perspective. Thanks for sharing. We have to remember that we are the parents and we need to set boundaries.

    • Rosie says...

      Alex, She was a good walker by 10 months. We started talking about it before we did it and did diapers at night while we got the hang of it during the day. Then we woke her up in the night to use the potty until she was in a big girl bed, but it was really just midnight when one of us was often up anyway so it wasn’t disruptive. We also stopped liquids after lunch and I think that was the biggest contributor. We loaded her up in the morning so she wasn’t dehydrated. There was fussing about that at first but she got used to it pretty quickly. We moved when she was 4 and she wet the bed once because she was scared to go to the new bathroom, but otherwise it’s been pretty smooth. I know it isn’t for everyone. Things bent when they needed to like when she was sick and needed more fluids. We have a great pediatrician who has similar views as us on parenting and that makes a huge difference. I know lots of parents have more challenges than us, but we operate off the belief that the baby does not run the show, but she’s along for the ride!

    • Jen says...

      😳😳😳 I read this comment earlier and it has stuck with me all day. I also don’t believe in the baby running the show and firmly believe in boundaries (I train dogs in obedience as a hobby!) but wow, is thus ever an extreme approach. I understand that your pediatrician is on board with your methods but as a medical provider I have to say, cutting off fluids after lunch is not okay! Cutting off fluids a couple hours before bed is not unreasonable Halfway through the day has the potential to be dangerous. We have a thirst drive for a reason. Children by nature are active people and if they want to drink during the day, should be allowed to do so. I know you feel your daughter has simply adapted and thrived with your method but really, what other choice has she had?

    • Rosie says...

      Jen, She drinks during the day now that she is older and spends more time outside running around! We just did it while she was still in her crib so she wouldn’t need to pee in the night. She was able to drink enough between waking up and lunch to keep her going just fine. She eats dinner right before she goes to bed now because we get home so late so she still doesn’t drink at dinner unless it is super salty or spicy. I know that she really is thirsty when she asks for water and she can recognize it in herself and articulate that need. We aren’t monsters! If something truly wasn’t working we would have changed it. There have been plenty of things we wanted to do that just didn’t work. I couldn’t breastfeed because I didn’t make enough milk. We couldn’t do cotton diapers because her skin is very sensitive. She is really struggling with reading. We only learned that she was terrified of heights when we paid for an expensive ski vacation this year and the chairlift caused an epic meltdown and ruined the whole trip. She won’t touch organic versions of kid basics like macaroni and cheese which is a staple for her despite us trying to coax her to eat a balanced, organic diet. We nailed bedtime, she speaks good French, and we’ve gotten her to be an adventurous eater in that she will try anything though 90% of the time she refuses more than one or two bites. I feel like those are my only successes as a parent and much of the time I feel like I’m flailing. The topic of this thread is bedtime, but if this were a thread about something else I would likely be on the other side of it.

  50. Steph says...

    Oh, this resonates. Emilia is 2 and has always been a terrible sleeper. She has has a routine since the beginning and now will fall asleep holding hands, but then she will wake up at least 3-4 times at night needing to hold hands to fall back asleep and scream bloody murder if not. We usually are so exhausted by 3 or 4am that she ends up in our bed and neither of us sleep the rest of the night. Can’t do cry it out. Don’t have the heart for it. Trying gradual retreat like this, but not getting past the hand holding stage. Do you just ignore the screaming while you’re sitting next to the bed?? And when you go back in at night and she doesn’t lay down, then what??

    • Robber Soup says...

      I come from an Indian background, where it’s more common for moms and kids to sleep together. What worked for me when I wanted to end the co sleeping is a trundle bed. The kid sleeps up top, I sleep down below and reach up and hold their hand while they fall asleep, and I don’t get kicked in the head all night. I know it’s not ideal, but it worked for our family.

    • Vicky says...

      My daughter has been a nightmare sleeper from the very start. It was very difficult. But it all worked so much better during the periods when I just decided to lean into it and sleep with her on a sofa bed in her room. Everyone got the sleep they needed, I didn’t have to spend hours next to her bed every night, and both her and me got some very sweet cuddles. I was very worried about doing that at first as it seemed like “THE WRONG THING TO DO” but it actually worked very well as everyone was well rested in the morning. So we would put her to bed in her bed, but when she woke up around midnight I would just move her over to the sofa bed and sleep with her for the rest of the night. And when I let go of the guilt (because why should I be guilty for giving a little kid some comfort), then it was awesome. And eventually we found other ways of making it work, so the co-sleeping has stopped (which, tbh, I feel a wee bit sad about :-/). But kids get there when they get there. They need some love and comfort in the night, can you blame them? There’s no harm in offering that.

  51. Em says...

    Ag, this is so timely. My 17-month-old–we still nurse/bottle-feed/rock her to sleep. Then she goes in her crib and sleeps all night* (*if she’s completely well, and she didn’t eat anything at all that might cause gas, and she is not teething, and she is not cold, and the cat doesn’t come by meowing for a second dinner [augh!], etc., etc., etc.). I have no idea how to teach a 17-month-old who is used to falling asleep in our arms how to go to sleep in her crib on her own. I had no idea when she was a tiny newborn this was something we were supposed to teach her to do then. We thought we were lucky she would nurse to sleep. It was like magic. Oops.

    • Katey says...

      Check out The Happy Sleeper!!

    • Ray says...

      I would do that too. But I burned out around 9months in, so we changed strategy. First we talked to her, explaining that things where about to hange and why. Then we gave her warm camomile tea instead of breastmilk, and weaned her off the rest gradually too. Now she has a bottle with tap water next to her bed (she sleeps on a floor mattress, big enough for two people) and If she can’t calm herself down I go in, give her the water, stroke her forehead, put the pacifier back in and leave. It’s a very doable routine and most nights she sleeps through anyway. She has had some kind of sleep regression after a bad case of flu in january, it lasted about one month. There was no way she could sleep alone. We had to take turns at sleeping in her bed wih her. Even during naps. She was going trough stuff. She whimpered and contracted in her sleep, sometimes shoot up to crawl to the door to look for us..poor thing. I was scared she would get used to cosleeping again but when that growth spurt or whatever it was passed, she went back to normal. Imagine your kid going though somethig and not being allowed to call for you, or only come to your room when they “can’t breathe” like another comment said..man, my inner child weeps.

    • Em says...

      Thank you, belatedly, so much! I will get the book, Katey, and I will try the talking-to-her approach before we make changes, Ray–I really like that idea. It is a relief to hear you say that there are some nights you just need to be there. My daughter has painful tummy issues sometimes and I can’t imagine leaving her to suffer from that alone when it happens.

  52. Meredith says...

    On the topic of getting out of bed – is there an issue with locking the door? We put on a slide lock at the top of the door (one an adult can release and slide off, but our kiddo can’t). She gets up out of bed, wanders around, sometimes decides to sleep on the floor, but she can’t leave her room. Are we super outside the mainstream here? I initially did it out of safety concerns (didn’t want her toppling down the stairs or getting into the bathroom unsupervised). But it has set a firm boundary around bedtime. And of course, if she calls for us and tells us she is thirsty or poopy or scared, we head on in and address the situation.

    • Amy says...

      It’s definitely something I’ve wished I could do, but we haven’t because my husband is a firefighter and that’s a definite issue for fire safety (that the kid could be trapped). My sister did it for her two year old though and it seemed to work for them.

    • Anna says...

      We put one of those pressure-mounted baby gates in front of our toddler’s door. He can still open the door, but he can’t wander around :)

    • Alex says...

      This is exactly why we have a safety knob on the inside of my sons room. Initially for safety but now so he’ll stay put. It works amazing. He’s only 3.5 so in case of fire, I’d be running up to get him anyway. It solves all the problems of a kid coming into your room. I also wonder if I’m outside the norm ??

  53. Y says...

    Sleep is soo important for our health and our children’s health, as are our intimate relationships with our spouses, however, just take a moment when your little ones are hanging on you, to ponder about how much you will miss it when it is over. It will make it feel a little sweeter and a little less maddening. Tomorrow they will be 15, bigger than you are and too busy to crawl into your bed to cuddle. :(

    • Andrea says...

      I could not agree more! It took 17 years of infertility and profound loss before I was able to have my son. I wouldn’t trade his midnight runs to our room to cuddle for anything. It’s such a short, precious moment in time that will be over soon so I savor every moment wondering if tonight will be the last time he steals my pillow.

  54. Kelly says...

    i just wanted to say good luck to all parents struggling with sleep issues – the worst thing about it, is that when you are sooo tired, it’s hard to be logical about things! I remember feeling like I was never. going. to. sleep. again.

    i also have learned about myself that I am an introvert and that nighttime is a critical part of my alone time (relatively, my husband is there) and kiddos up in my biz at night messes me up…so if you find yourself feeling slightly berserk when kids are up it night, maybe this is part of it (and it’s totally ok)!

  55. Kelly says...

    I would like to politely suggest that if you are starting a comment with ‘my kids have always been good sleepers’ – you may just have good sleepers and/or may not have much actual insight into solving sleep problems!

    i adopted my older daughter at 1 from Ethiopia – she was a horrible sleeper (understandably so, after such upheaval in her little life). She was miserable and crabby and so were we. We tried a bunch of stuff and finally figured things out, but looking back I wish I had used a sleep consultant, and done so early on…I think I could have saved us a lot of stress and sleeplessness! She’s had rough patches over the years but at 8 finally is pretty solid at falling asleep fast and staying in her own bed.

    My almost 3 year old has always been a pretty good sleeper…though things are more challenging now that she is out of a crib. Still at her most challenging she doesn’t hold a candle to her big sister’s sleep issues. So much of it is just the kid you get, and figuring out what works for your family at different stages! good luck to all the sleepy parents out there, i feel your pain!

    • Steph says...

      Kelly,
      Thank you for bringing up real issues with children’s sleep. It is so easy for parents of good sleepers to take the credit for having good sleepers. That kind of thing places blame and guilt on the parents of poor sleepers.

      My daughter has never slept well and she is 3. She also has sensory processing disorder so it is actually incredibly difficult for her to go to sleep, stay asleep, and when she wakes up she goes from 0 to 60mph in 1 minute. Before I knew about her disorder I knew something was different. I am an exhausted mama like you have been too. We are working with her occupational therapist to address her unique sensory needs.

      I feel like it is so difficult to connect with other parents when you have special situations or circumstances. Other parents tell you what worked for them as if it’s a magical solution that would work for every child.

      It is so lonely out here, especially at 3am.

    • Hillary says...

      Amen to your first paragraph!

    • Rachel says...

      This is a great point. I do think it is important to note, however, that many parents with “great sleepers” really did put the work in. I am sure some people just get amazing sleepers without doing anything but many parents work hard for good sleep. That is totally not to say that if another parent had just worked harder they would have a good sleeper too though. Every child is a person and people have different sleep needs but parents also make very different choices.

    • Tamara says...

      Yes, so true. We felt so smug when our first was an excellent sleeper, but were quickly humbled by our second. It’s so easy to feel either accomplished or a like failure with your kids but a lot of it is just who they are and not about you at all. You’re just there to love them and show them the ropes on this wild beautiful planet.

    • Anne says...

      Yes! I have a sensory processing disorder child too and the sleep issues where out of this world. Hang in there, it will get better!

  56. elizabeth says...

    Isn’t Andi’s technique similar to the British nanny who used to have a reality show? A parent would sit on the floor next to the child’s bed and silently but resolutely put the child back in bed. One parent had to do this something like 38 times. But it worked.

    I’m curious to know what happens to bad sleepers as they get older if their parents do nothing. Do they eventually become decent sleepers? I mean, they can’t call out to their parents when they go to college, right?

    • Rachel says...

      My sister was one of those bad-sleeper kids. She now has to have the TV on and is a terrible sleeper still. It is hard to say if she was just destined to be this way or if my mom created this habit? She sleep trained me and I love sleep but who knows! I think the bigger concern is the sleep hygiene of the entire family. A kid might get enough or almost enough sleep in bed with their parents but it sounds like in this case the parents were not getting enough. That is unhealthy and worth trying something to change things I think.

    • Flora says...

      I was a bad sleeper as a kid. I actually had to co-sleep with my parents as a toddler and remember lying awake at night (a little resentfully) while they were sleeping. Being able to read chapter books independently and writing changed the game significantly for my sleeping habits.

      I’m still a light sleeper and find I don’t need as much sleep as other people, so I do think sleeping issues can be a part of a kid’s temperament.

  57. Steph says...

    I always thought we’d keep my son in our room for a number of months before transitioning to a crib in his room. Fast forward to just 10 days after his birth: I’m so anxious I get zero sleep if he’s in the room, and we start putting him down in his crib which we can see across the hall from our room. I begin sleeping with ear plugs in so as to better fall completely asleep and not be distracted by his little grunts. His sleep improved gradually over the months and years, with a big improvement when he stopped feeding at night. He’s 3 1/2 now and aside from a couple yo-yo’s in the first half hour after we put him down, he sleeps for a good 8 hours at a time. Maybe twice a week he’ll show up at our bedside at 2am with a vague complaint like “I don’t know what to dream about” and we walk him back and tuck him in with little protest. I knew prolonged cosleeping would never work for my anxious, light sleeper self. But we spend about 15 minutes cuddling as a family first thing in the morning and occasionally falling back asleep, and this makes up for it.

    • Kristin says...

      I had a really similar reaction with my son, including sleeping with ear plugs! He slept in our room for about two months, but eventually I grew so anxious about sleeping in general that my husband and I were sleeping in shifts and in separate rooms (one of us with the baby at a time) to help relieve it. Finally we just bit the bullet and moved him to his nursery, and all three of us benefitted so much! And while I’m certainly not wishing time away, I am a little excited for when he’s old enough to come into our room for morning/weekend snuggle time :)

    • Tamara says...

      “I don’t know what to dream about.” Lol!

    • Ray says...

      Oh, he doesn’t know what to dream about!! That’s so sweet, and a real problem lol.
      Our daughter was loud too, I’m anxious too..around 4mo she didn’t wake up for7 hours from her afternoon nap in the crib and I realised how much better we both slept separate. Even if I had to get up every 3hours. Now I or my husband occasionally sleep on her floor mattress wih her in case of illness or similar.

  58. Danielle says...

    I just really love everything Alyssa writes – it’s so fun keeping up with this family!

  59. Elena says...

    Something to take into consideration is sleep regression cycles. They are timed with major growth and learning a new skill (i.e. learning to roll over, crawl, walk, even speak). My daughter was always a great sleeper, but had horrible regressions, the worst of which left us with an 18 month old who would sleep anywhere but her crib and had to sleep on top of us. It was misery for all three of us. We did some research and the most important thing we learned was to not develop bad habits during a regression or they just become part of your new sleep habits. It’s hard, but so worth it in the end.

    We switched her to a toddler bed, went back to our regular sleep routine and gently walked her back to her bed every time she got out of it (which would happen like 6 times a night when she first started). We didn’t engage, showed tons of love and left the hallway light on.

    Every child is different, every parent is different, but figuring out what’s important for you and your child and seeing the long view and staying consistent is one of the best things you can do! Lots of love to all the mommas who need sleep out there. It will come.

  60. oh, co-sleeping! I love it and hate it. My 20-months old is kind enough to sleep in his crib until 2 am. Then he comes into our bed and we sleep in an H position. So uncomfortable! but I get to wake up with him caressing my face and giving me Eskimo kisses <3

  61. Cece says...

    The thing I find most frustrating about kids and sleep is that the goalposts are forever moving! Which I suppose really, is just a specific example of what parenting is like on the grand scale.

    When our baby girl started sleeping through the night at 7 months it felt like we’d won the lottery! Sleeeeeeep, precious sleep! Then she’d get ill. Then she’d be teething. Then her brain would be processing some big new development. Each time it would all go to pot for days or weeks or occasionally months.

    At about 2 1/2 she started climbing out of her cot, and we moved to the opposite end of the country (on the same weekend, because of course). And we went into a long stretch of going in to her twice or three times a night for a good six months. Now it’s back to normal… but her baby brother will be here in 3 months! Eventually they’ll share a room, and I’m equal parts fascinated and terrified about how that’s going to work out 🙈.

    • Juultje says...

      Please don’t worry to much, my two boys share a room and the times they have woken each other up are very few.
      They will sleep trough crying, yelling, vomiting (oh the joy) bed lights on etc.
      I don’t know how, but it’s amazing and bonus points, they sleep more soundly since sharing a room!

    • Cece says...

      Ah that’s reassuring @juultje! I try to be one of those people who doesn’t anticipate problems until they actually arise, so hopefully it’ll be smooth(ish) sailing! We have a short-term back-up plan for the period until they’re ready to share.

  62. JenMarie says...

    The best advice our pediatrician ever gave us was in regards to sleep. When our son was a newborn, he told us that of course we should rock him and/or cuddle him towards sleep but that we should try very hard to put him down (first in the co-sleeper, later in his crib) just before he actually fell asleep. That way, when he woke up, he wouldn’t feel confused about where he was and what the hell had happened to us–he would know he was in a safe place because we were the ones who had put him there. I have to believe that this advice is a big part of the reason that our son has always been an amazingly good sleeper (now eating, that’s another story…).
    Also, when he graduated to a big kid bed, we rolled up towels and put them under the fitted sheet on either side of him to create a more enclosed, cosy, secure-feeling space (this is also a great hack when little kids sleep in hotel beds). And we hung a colorful parachute over his bed as a kind of canopy, which also feels more cosy. We use sturdy outdoor Christmas lights instead of a nightlight (more light & more magical) and a good sound machine and that kid loves going to sleep at night.

  63. Beth says...

    So my daughter is 5 and is an absolute garbage sleeper. We sleep trained her in the crib and it worked, but once she switched to a big bed the wheels fell off. She still insists one of us be with her to fall asleep and we’ve tried so many different techniques. My question for Andi is how do you keep her in her bed to fall asleep? She’s strong and willful as all heck. :)
    Signed, a very tired mommy.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      great question! that’s a tough situation. my friend M. was in the same situation years ago — her daughter would constantly get out of bed and it felt impossible to keep her in it. she called a sleep expert, who gave her the advice to jump keep putting her daughter back in bed, without negotiating or talking or cuddling — just calmly putting her back. the expert told her: even if your daughter gets out 100 times, for 12 hours in a row, just keep picking her up and putting her back in bed. my friend mentally prepared ahead of time to be up all night, but she actually only had to put her back four times, and then her daughter gave in and went to sleep. (!) and now she sleeps happily in her bed. so fascinating.

      that worked for her, so thought i’d pass it along!

      P.S. and i’m so sorry that you’re so exhausted. it’s the worst feeling, i hear you. sleep deprivation is a form of torture. it will get better, i promise. xoxo

    • Allison says...

      My first was like this and we developed a bedtime mode we called “robot parents “. Much like Joanna describes, we would be there as necessary and put her back to bed but we were not interactive or interesting. We would say “It’s time to lie quietly in bed” as necessary and nothing else. Our second was the type to go easily to sleep but woke up a lot and started the day very early. Largely he just outgrew that (by age 3ish) though he’s definitely still a morning person. I do think some of the waking was related to needing the toilet as when we started taking him at night around his first wakeup, he slept better. Wishing sweet dreams to all.

    • Kelly says...

      at 5 we full on bribed my daughter to stay in her bed…she really wanted a kids kindle and it cost $50 so I told her that if she stayed in bed for 50 nights we could get one…i was half kidding because I didn’t think she understood the number well enough to get it, but lo and behold, it worked for 50 nights.

      after that i thought for sure the habit would be broken but it wasn’t totally…so a few times I had to come up with a new reward to get her to reset…though generally much smaller, like 5 nights in your bed and pick out a piece of candy or something.

    • Katie says...

      Not sure if this will be helpful, but here’s what we did when my son was having trouble in his big boy bed. This as more around getting out of bed, but I think some of the techniques could be similar. He was struggling to stay in bed and would hop out of bed as soon as we left. We really wanted to break the “Mom leaves/I get up” connection so we worked on having him stay in bed for just the tiniest amount of time and then stretching that out. For a few nights we’re say, “I’m coming to check on you, stay in bed!” and only walk a couple of feet away before checking on him and repeated that a few times in a row. Then after a few more nights, we’re get all the way to the door and “go back” to check on him. We kept stretching it out until after 3 weeks or so, that instinct to either get out of bed or start melting down had really faded and he could start to fall asleep on his own. It was a stressful few weeks, but the investment in going slow really helped and then once we broke that initial bad habit he did well on sleeping on his own. Everyone’s different, but this worked well for us. Good luck!

    • lkb says...

      Can you offer an alternative, like “no, I’m not going to lie with you, but you can go to sleep in my bed, and then I’ll move you to your bed after you fall asleep?”

      My now 4-year old has never been a great sleeper; he just started sleeping through the night around 3.5. I blame co-sleeping when he was a baby, which I did just to get ANY sleep. I wouldn’t change it–co-sleeping was lovely and saved my sanity–but I think it backfired in the whole sleeping-on-his-own training.

      We went through a phase last year of him not wanting to go to sleep in his bed, even after I laid with him for a while. And he wouldn’t stay there. We’d just keep taking him back to his bed. That worked for a while, but sometimes still he just won’t stay. And rather than fight and give him the control of the situation, we just tell him to pick a bed and go to sleep. He loves falling asleep in our bed, and doesn’t usually wake up when we move him (and when he does, it’s never been a problem).

      We also hit the hurdle of him sneaking up to crawl in bed EVERY night, so I started bribing him: if you can stay in your bed for 3 nights in a row, I’ll buy you a Matchbox car. Then we upped it to 4 nights, and 5. And now it’s whenever he remembers to ask; soon I’ll cut it out entirely. He still comes up periodically, usually for a bad dream, but I don’t mind it when he really needs the cuddling.

    • Holly says...

      I’m currently doing what Joanna’s describing with my 3-year-old. (Also super willful so I FEEL YOUR PAIN). I literally stand at her bedside and put her back down over and over, trying my best not to show frustration or anger. It usually takes ten times or more before she stops springing back up. (Not counting an additional resurfacing later for potty or water). It’s been a week and she’s still a total pain at bedtime, so it hasn’t worked any massive miracles, but at least I have a method that doesn’t involve totally losing my &%$#!

    • Lucy says...

      As parents of twins, we had this issue with our girls when we first put them in big kid beds. They just kept. getting. out. One would get upset and then the other would get upset and before we knew where we were, they would both be in full meltdown mode, standing on the landing, screaming. So we would pick each of them up calmly and say “it’s time to go to bed,” or some variation of this, and put them back in their beds. There were nights when we did it tens of times–per child! We tried hard not to act frustrated, but also to not engage with them at all. That (plus sticker charts when we could get them near the point of reason…) was the ticket. They needed to see that no amount of histrionics was going to change our mind about bedtime.

    • Angela says...

      I wanted to jump in and say that we’ve tried the method of putting our son back into bed without talking or any interaction and we had to do it over 100 times each night (for real!)for about a week before it worked, at all. It was too hard for my husband to do this with any fidelity, so I did it by myself, and it was exhausting. It eventually worked, but we slid back after a trip and now I am terrified about trying it again!!!!

      Some kids just really are so tricky! and having to be physical with putting them back into bed is hard because you have to do it in a way that minimizes the attention they are getting but is still safe. I don’t have an answer for you – more just wanted to say, solidarity, and it can be so, so challenging!!!! And I know how it feels for nothing to work.

      There is a lot of judgment of parents who can’t get their kids to sleep, both from themselves and from others – my daughter has always stayed in her bed, and we’ve used the same strategies for both of our kids, with so much success for her, and none at all for him – so I really think personality and temperament are definitely in play! I’m truly hoping my son’s stubbornness and determination serve him well some time in the future, but until then….

    • Jennifer says...

      Hi Beth, I am sadly in the same situation with my almost 6 year old daughter. When she was about 4.5 she started insisting I stay with her while she falls asleep. If I try to leave or send her back into her room she throws these over the top tantrums. I sometime put her back in her bed 10 times and her tantrums turn into these hysterical meltdowns. She shares a room with her 3 year old sister and I don’t want her to wake her up, so I surrender and lay in bed with her until she falls asleep. On top of it, if she wakes up in the middle of the night she comes into our bed. She says she is scared at night, which I also experienced as a child so I have a hard time being too firm with her. I have adjusted to sleeping on the edge of the bed, but it makes my husband so grumpy and groggy in the morning. I am going to try the chair idea and prepare myself for a few days of dramatic tantrums. Good luck to both of us :)

    • Eleanor says...

      As a mom who’s struggling to get our 3.5 year old to stay in bed at bedtime (after he eventually falls asleep, he sleeps fine), I would LOVE to see more about this. We have 9 month old twins down the hall and can’t let him get too rowdy or they pay the price. We felt like we’ve lost our nighttime freedoms, which as any new parent would tell you is SO important for that survival balance!

    • Ari says...

      Jennifer, just wondering if the timeline of your daughter’s sleep regression lines up with when she started sharing a room with her sister. If so, perhaps the nighttime tantrum is her way of saying she needs special mommy time, or is having difficulty sharing her quiet space with her sibling.

      Not a mom, Just someone who teaches preschool—third grade so this behavioral pattern occured to me!

    • A says...

      Jennifer, just wondering if the timeline of your daughter’s sleep regression lines up with when she started sharing a room with her sister. If so, perhaps the nighttime tantrum is her way of saying she needs special mommy time, or is having difficulty sharing her quiet space with her sibling.

      Not a mom, Just someone who teaches preschool—third grade so this behavioral pattern occured to me!

  64. Monika says...

    I have three kids; my oldest, 6, managed to sleep well at night after some graduated sleep training. But my twins *4 years old today!* took forEVER to sleep through the night. As they share a room, graduated sleep training was hit or miss and we just had to wade through it as best we can.

    There are still some up-and-down nights, and it’s draining and exhausting. I’ve always found that while lots of people acknowledge there are different methods to sleep issues with babies and kids, there can be so much judgement as well, and as a consequence, a lot of parents feel like they’re failing.

    Right now, my one twin sleeps in a big boy bed, because he was ready and excited and a part of the decision making process. My other twin is not ready and still sleeps in his crib, like his older brother did until he was ready for a big boy bed. And that’s fine because he’s happy in there and feels safe and contained and can easily get in and out by himself without injury. There’s so much pressure to get these little ones sorted out on our grown-up timelines, but sometimes, you kind of have to let them set the pace.

    • Laura says...

      So right! The pressure and the judgement make the whole, hard thing that much harder. And the biggest lesson I have slowly learned now that I am on my third kid, is that each child is different. What works with one may not work with another. What motivates one may not motivate another. So be kind do each other, fellow parents. Offer advice only when it is asked and offer the caveat that it worked for you, but may not work with a different child. Be kind!

  65. Abbie and alllllll the pee sheets says...

    Wondering if anyone knows if there are “night time potty trainers” in the same way there are sleep trainers. I am strugggggling with my 7.5 year old who has never spent a dry night in his bed ever. We have tried everything. “Waiting it out” seems like cruel torture for both of us. Anyone out there find some kind of success they could share??

    • maggie says...

      A friend of mine would wake her kid up in the middle of the night (maybe around midnight or 1am) and make him go to the bathroom – I think they had to do this for a week or two, but then her son started to learn to wake up before he had to go? I don’t know the details but that was the gist of it.

    • CJ says...

      Oh this I’d sign up for! I have an almost 4 year old who isn’t even close to trying nightime dryness. We’re just now getting the hang of awake time dryness. Pooping in the potty is another story- he is terrified. I have a new respect for mammas in this position now. I want nothing more than to have a dry boy but it is WAYYYYYY harder than I thought. It’s the one thing that he hasn’t just “done” like the other kids.

    • Anon says...

      Some kids just sleep too deeply though mine is only 4. Our solution has been to initiate an 11pm toilet visit. I would be sure to rule out any medical issues at 7.5.

    • Sara says...

      Our pediatrician said that nighttime dryness is all about the release of hormones that tell your kidneys to go to sleep. Some kids get this signal at an early age, and some much later. If they aren’t EVER dry at night it’s likely because they haven’t started releasing that hormone yet.

      My younger daughter has been dry at night since she was 18 months old. My older daughter still wears pull ups to bed at 5.

      If wearing pull ups starts bothering her I plan on setting an alarm to wake her up in the night to go potty. I have also heard of people having some success with the alarms that detect wetness and wake them up the moment they start to pee. Our pediatrician said those usually work best after the age of 6, so we haven’t had experience with those, but may be a good option for you.

      Good luck!

    • KT says...

      Ugh. So hard. I’m sure you’ve already talked to your pediatrician, but just in case… My 6-year-old was having trouble staying dry at night and it turned out he was really constipated and the blockage put a lot of pressure on his bladder when he was in bed. Over a weekend, we used an oral laxative (magnesium citrate) to clear everything out and then Miralax to help things along as we adjusted diet/water intake. He’s been dry ever since. But we do talk far more about poop consistency in our house than I ever thought possible.

    • EJ says...

      My children are too young, so I do not have personal experience with this – but wanted to pass along information I had bookmarked from our sleep coach’s website. Chronic bed wetting at night in otherwise potty trained children can be an issue with their pelvic floor and deep sleep and sometimes requires the help of a physical or occupational therapist. Might be worth a try! Good luck to you. That must be very difficult.

      “Children that experience chronic bedwetting are typically very heavy sleepers. They do not have a urinary problem, assuming that they remain dry during the day, a urinary tract infection has been ruled out by pediatrician and there are no underlying pathological conditions. They have a sleep problem. They are sleeping so deeply that they do not arouse to their brain signal that the bladder is filling. Therefore, they do not awake to use the bathroom and are so relaxed that their pelvic floor muscles allow the bladder to empty while they sleep.”
      http://www.sweetdreamstherapy.com

    • Justine says...

      Hi there – we have a son who didn’t sleep dry through the night until nearly 10. I wish I could share a success story, but after trying sleep alarms, waking up to take him to pee a few times in the night, chiropractics, bribes, etc., the only thing that worked was waiting for his bladder to be developed enough to make it through the night. So, I’m sending you a lot of empathy!

    • Danielle says...

      Abbie- sorry you’re struggling with this. As I’m sure you’ve heard already, nighttime bedwetting is actually a pretty common problem, especially among boys. If you haven’t talked to your pediatrician about this lately, it might be something to bring up- to make sure you all aren’t missing something else, and to get more individualized help. Bed wetting alarms exist and have been used effectively, as are medications.
      Here’s a link to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ parent page on the subject with some tips and background: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/toilet-training/Pages/Bedwetting.aspx
      Good luck!

    • Rae says...

      My now 9 year old daughter was fully out of diapers by three years old EXCEPT for night time. She wet her pull-up every night until she was almost 6 years old. Her pediatrician kept saying she would get there when she was ready and she was wetting her bed because she slept so deeply and didn’t feel the urge to use the bathroom. My daughter was, and still is at 9, a child who you could pick up and move around without waking once she fell asleep.

      Our doctor advised that once she had occasional dry nights, even just one or two a month, we get rid of the pull-ups and be prepared for a wet bed. We used the disposable stick-on sheet covers which meant we only needed to change her top bedding when she inevitably wet the bed — which she did off and on for about a month. Then she was dry for months at a time. Now she hasn’t wet the bed in well over a year. Worth noting, she does wake up almost every night and use the bathroom after she has fallen asleep. Small bladder in addition to deep sleep perhaps?

      Good luck Abbie! I hope this helps some. : ) I know the pain of all that laundry.

    • Emily says...

      First, its very common, especially in little boys. Both of my boys wet the bed till they were 7ish. I had them in night time pulls ups. Then with my younger one, I had to do something so I would put him to bed like normal, around 8ish. Then around 11/midnight, I’d get him up to pee. He didn’t even remember the next day sometimes. I wanted his body to get used to him waking to pee. I did this in the summer after 1st grade. After a couple months, he got the hang of it. My mom did the same thing with my brother 35 yrs ago. You could give it a try once school’s out.

    • d says...

      We did this protocol with our daughter due to chronic constipation, but it was *highly* effective and low-drama, and originally designed for bed-wetters. Having a medical explanation for what’s happening is so gratifying. If you google the author you’ll find more tools too.

      https://www.amazon.com/P-Book-Bedwetting-black-white/dp/099087740X/ref=asc_df_099087740X/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=312136554937&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=16075416947442158279&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9019697&hvtargid=pla-581025839656&psc=1

      Good luck.

    • Katie says...

      No advice except to say that its not as uncommon as one might think. My brother peed the bed every night till her was 9 years old. My parents where so desperate they even tried to get him hypnotized because they heard that might work! But in the end he just figured it out on his own. Needless to say he did not go on sleepovers anywhere.

      I remember at one point my mom got so desperate because they had thrown out yet another mattress and my brother slept on one of those re-bounder trampolines (it was a large one) in his room for a few weeks… hahhaa… mom said that was worse because cleaning up the pee off the floor underneath the trampoline every day was more work and started to make the wood floor warp…hahaha….. my poor mom.

      My brothers a total legend, totally happy guy so no left over “trauma” or anything from being a late pee’er.

    • Meg says...

      My son had an adeonoidecto my. He had a huge blockage from a very swollen adeonoid which caused breathing problems. This completely resolved his nightly bed wetting!!! We to had tried everything. He was 7 when we had it done.

    • Rosie says...

      What we did when we were first potty training was no liquids within several hours of bedtime and we potty trained at 16 months. Push it back further and further until you have success. Your son will eventually stop asking for something to drink once it is established that he will not get it. He will not die of dehydration. I promise!

    • Elena says...

      @cj my daughter pooped in a pull up (standing up!) until she was 4.5 years old. My pediatrician told me the sweetest thing: “Very few children go to college in pull-ups.” It put me at ease. My daughter went on the toilet when she was ready to and on her own timetable. It’s going to be okay!!!

    • Corine says...

      I live in the Netherlands, and here it is common to use a “plaswekker,” a bedwetting alarm which is basically a cloth diaper that sounds an alarm when it gets wet. The first night our six-year-old slept through the very loud alarm, the second night she woke up too late, and the third night she made it to the toilet and hasn’t needed it since. It can take longer than that, but they’re generally successful. The brand we used was Rodger. Our doctor advised not to bother starting too young with it, but by 6 she was ready. And yes, bedwetting is extremely common, even up until the early teens.

    • FGB says...

      My son is a very heavy sleeper. Potty training him was a breeze, but he wet the bed most nights for a very long time. We went to the pediatrician who wasn’t concerned and said he’d grow out of it once his bladder was ready. I tried waking him up at night but it was exhausting for me, and even though I did it consistently for months, it didn’t change things for him. He wore night time pull ups. A few tips of things that helped us when he had friends over or especially when he went to their house. He’d always take a sleeping bag. At the bottom of the sleeping bag or inside his pillow i’d put a spare pair of pajamas, a couple of wipes and a ziploc bag where he could put his wet pull up/clothes and conceal the smell (I was so worried for him every time he stayed the night somewhere I barely slept). But it worked out great and though he wet the bed every time, he never had an awkward incident where his friends found out. For multiple day field trips I sent him with an extra sleeping bag and gave his teacher a heads up. Anyway, he finally stopped wetting the bed last year -at 12.5 years old. It was a long road but the doctor was right, in our case we really just needed to give his bladder time to grow. One last tip: I researched cool people, inventors, artist, athletes, that wet the bed and would tell him about it so he would know this is a common thing and that there was absolutely nothing wrong with him!

  66. Lacey says...

    My Hazel is almost 4 and we have had major sleep issues since October. I’ve seen a few comments indicating consistency is key for success but let me just say that this is NOT always true. My kiddo has typically been a great sleeper. Sure, we would have little battles along the way but usually the battles were short-lived/easy to fix. Besides, I am BIG on schedules and routines (I work with children, so I get that this is important) and have generally felt that this helped with our bedtime successes. That said, a family trip where we had to reluctantly share a bed all together + going from her toddler bed to a big-girl (twin-size) bed late last summer really changed the game for us. Sleeping with mom and dad was like, the BEST thing ever apparently. She started fighting bedtime in general and then waking often and wanting to sleep with us and we were having major sleep deprivation issues going back and forth all night long trying to keep her in her bed.

    My pediatrician had advice that I did not personally feel comfortable with (to change the locks so she can’t get out). We tried stickers, rewards, etc. She finally stopped fighting bed time, so the fact that she climbs in our bed in the middle of the night still (!!!) seems like a partial victory to me. She has maybe slept through the night 10 times since October. I think the fears kids develop are REAL to them- darkness, separation, etc. and I do think this has played a role for her as well. I definitely miss my bed feeling like mine (my husband even more so, from what he says). But, I am holding on the hope that this is something that she will eventually grow to not do.

    ANYWAY. :) All of us as parents have different limits and breaking points. Something works for you until it doesn’t and then you do something different. There is no one-size-fits-all sleep plan. Kids have a way of taking your well meaning ideas/plans/routines and saying “to hell with them!” :)

    • Danielle says...

      Not from my personal experience, but my cousin and his wife swear by getting your kid in a full or queen size bed from the start. That way, if they try to come into you bed, you can just go in theirs with them instead so they don’t get in the habit of invading your bed. Our oldest is almost 3 and I am *dreading* this- he is currently in a crib with a mesh tent that keeps him in there. We are thinking of trying to find a tent that goes over a bed as well.

    • Tori says...

      We actually have a full or queen (?) Not sure which for our 3.5 year old that she transitioned into from our bed at 2. It was our guest bed room and became her room so we didn’t want to get rid of a great mattress, plus less chance of her rolling out of bed. Also, this way one of us would stay with her to fall asleep etc. She has NEVER slept in our bed since the transition, she actually has never asked or tried despite the co-sleeping. So it did work well for us, especially when her baby sister came along, we could divide and conquer ;)

  67. Lisa says...

    Anything sleep related is so hard. I had rubbish sleepers – my baby is still getting up at night (though now less frequently than before) and she’s 16 months. She was more than a year old before she slept through the night.

    It’s so easy to get into bad habits because you’re willing to do ANYTHING to get the kid to sleep because the fear that they will never ever go to sleep is so real (every night when it takes ages I remind myself that they can’t stay awake forever). She is very good at falling asleep on her own now after I faced my fear and stopped feeding her to sleep. It was a couple of terrible nights but so much gain

  68. Erin says...

    Way to go, mama! Sleep is such a crazy part of parenting that I never fully grasped until my two kids came along. We struggled with both of them (6 &3 now) and still have a regression here and there. I completely understand that sense of accomplishment when you successfully sleep train though….it makes you feel like a grown ass adult who is getting shit done! Ha. And once you do it one time successfully the hiccups that come about later are so much easier to move through…for them and you.

    Cheers to doing out best!

  69. Rachel says...

    Unless your kid is climbing out of the crib with a sleep sack on (which I know some kids do!), I don’t think it’s such a bad idea to keep a child in the crib until almost 4. I had my kids wear a sleep sack every night so that they didn’t realize they could climb out. Then I waited a loooong time to transfer them out of their cribs. But once I did transfer them, the big bed was never a problem. I know this won’t work for everyone, but just throwing it out there for those who might like to wait.

    • Kelly says...

      my 2 year couldn’t climb out of her crib with a sleep sack on, so she figured out right quick how to take that sleep sack off.

      but here for keeping kids in a crib as long as you can!

    • Erin says...

      Rachel that is my plan! My daughter turned 3 in February and still sleeps in her crib, quite happily (in a sleep sack). She refuses pillows and blankets and only recently decided it was okay to have one stuffy at night. She has never tried to climb out, and although I feel a lot of pressure from family and friends who think she’s ‘not a baby’ and ‘too old’ for the crib, it works for us and hello! don’t fix what’s not broken. My 17-month-old, on the other hand, will probably escape before 2 and need a toddler bed.

    • Savannah says...

      I had a climber who figured out how to get out of the sleep sack, and once that was inside out and backwards, climbed out in her sleepsack. Needless to say, big girl bed came much earlier than we wanted! But she did ok at 2.3…where I put her in her still in her sleep sack with no covers for awhile and then transitioned her to covers. My second has never attempted climbing and is still snuggled in sleep sack in crib at close to 3 and will be until she says she wants to get out!.

  70. Alex says...

    We slept trained our first at 4 months per our pediatricians recommendation. Took four nights and she has been an exceptional sleeper ever since (now almost 4 years old). I’m talking 8pm to 8am every night. Best thing we ever did for her and us! We just had our second and the older one is now starting to draw the bedtime routine out with pleas for extra books or snuggles. But I get it – it’s her only real alone time with me right now so I indulge to a point. But when I finally say that’s it, then that’s it. She lies down and we don’t hear from her until morning.
    My 2nd baby has been fussier and needier in general. We’ll sleep train at 4 months again, but I’m not so sure it will work as well this time around… Now I know what people mean when they say every kid is different. I thought i’d get a matching set – but not so!

  71. Lena says...

    As a parent with two young babies/children with sleep issues, I think it was the area where I experienced the most extreme judgment from other parents. So many parent “friends” were absolutely certain that if I took the approach that they had with their over-achieving sleepers, everything would be just fine. For some, I wasn’t regimented enough and they were sure I was damaging my child’s development. For others, I needed to make myself physically and emotionally available for my child at every moment, lest I damaging my child’s development. Sigh….

    Let’s do better moms! Say it with me now “good for her, not for me”.

    And to all the sleep deprived moms out there, may you sleep peacefully sooner than later!

    • CJ says...

      This. This. This. So easy to pass judment and say what isn’t working. Look at all the things that have worked in your little’s life! We need to do better and support mamas wherever they are, whatever they are doing. If there was a magic trick, there would be no sleep trainers, no books, no nothing!!! We’d just wave our wand and boom. Every single kid is different and therefore there is no ONE solution.

    • Caitlin says...

      YES! My toddler still nurses at night, and while I’m fine with it, the judge-y reactions from others are so irksome. So happy for folks whose kids have slept through the night since they were tiny! So happy if sleep training worked for you! Really! That is wonderful.

      My child happens to get so worked up that he pukes if I let him cry for 5-10 minutes in the middle of the night. I’ve chosen nursing over cleaning up puke at 2am! I’m fine, my kid is fine. Let’s all be okay with each other’s choices!

    • Alice says...

      Right on!!!
      So much judgement = so bad for morale. I wish some people weren’t so critical about parenting approaches, especially with new parents. The judgement some parents get, at a time when all you need is support (and sleep), is awful.
      Saying it loud with you…

    • Rachel says...

      Yes! This is so true and I think a lot of us need to hear it (myself included!). It is sometimes hard for me to hear my friend’s vent about their sleep problems and not offer “solutions”. It does sometimes feel like I’m back in college talking to a girlfriend about an awful guy she is dating and just want to scream ditch him! I listen to sleep issues and want to scream sleep train! But you have reminded me that just because it works for me doesn’t mean it is right for everyone or will work for all families. I need to check my own judgments. Everyone knows their kid best and is doing the best job they can. Thank you!

    • Rosie says...

      What drives me nuts is when people tell me that I scared my daughter into being a good sleeper because we have strict rules about when it is okay to wake us up and then they heavily imply that the reason they get up with their child or let them sleep in their bed is because they love them and I somehow don’t give a hoot about mine because I do things differently. My way is not better or worse but is necessary for our survival. Sure, sometimes I hear people talking about their issues and gloat in my head a bit, but I would never say that my way is the way they should be doing things unless I am specifically asked for advice.

    • Louise says...

      I’m so sensitive to judgement and I didn’t realise until I became a mom. Enough with all the judging (I’m looking at you, in-laws) but I’m cool with judging others for their judgmental ways, that’s the only thing

    • Lena says...

      CAITLIN!!! You were the sister with the story I needed to hear during my children’s baby/toddler days!! My babies would puke (and get explosive diarrhea) when I attempted cry-it-out sleep training. We didn’t last more than 15 minutes either – the smell alerted me to the total failure of that experiment. It was horrifying and sad. And I too had to chose night nursing/co-sleeping just to survive those early years. There’s something so beautiful in hearing someone with a similar story (even if it was a little hard to live through).

    • Caitlin says...

      Oh my goodness Lena I want to give you a hug right now! I think you point to a big truth about why baby sleep is so hard: none of our parent friends are there in the middle of the night with us, seeing what we’re seeing. It can be so hard to communicate to well-meaning friends or family what our experience is. So comforting to find someone else who has been there!!!

      My mom (who is a total saint and has been the BIGGEST support for us, and who also seemed skeptical of our nighttime habits) babysat for us a week or two ago. We got home and she was clearly rattled at just how distraught our kiddo had been when he woke up, and totally changed her tone about how we handle his sleep. It was like a light bulb for me: We all only have our own bleary-eyed nighttime experiences, which may not be all that similar to others’.

  72. Jennie says...

    I remember holding my newborn and thinking to myself, “the first thing I am going to teach you, it how to go to sleep.” I am sure I got a lot of things wrong with my now 6 and half year old, but that was one thing I managed to do right! I had a full strategy. My heart breaks for parents with sleep challenges, and I applaud those for getting help if they need it.

  73. Alex says...

    Oh CupofJo – you are always so on point for my life! Have just been struggling with this same issue! Thank you!

  74. Kristin says...

    Once or twice a week, my two and a half year old will wake up in the middle of the night crying for me, and she typically winds up in my bed for an hour or two while she falls back into a deep sleep. When I gripe about it to my husband, he’ll tell me to just let her cry and that she’ll be fine. Listen, I love the guy, but he can sleep through ANYTHING. Last night, she happened to have one of her bouts of tears while we were both still up working. “What’s she saying?” He asked. I told him what she was saying (what she always says): “I want you mommy. I’m so scared.” He was shocked. “Oh my gosh, that’s terrible!” Yeah, now he gets it.

    • Rosie says...

      Speaking from experience, you won’t be able to hear her cry if both doors are closed with sound machines playing in both rooms. This isn’t a forever thing because you want to be able to hear when there is a problem, but it means she’ll get used to not crying for you in the night when she realizes you won’t come. My wife’s logic was, Really? How scared can she possibly be? It sounds mean, but it helped my daughter learn to self-soothe. Once it seems like the habit is broken you can go back to how things were before. Anyway, that’s just what worked for us. Might not be right for you.

  75. Natalie says...

    Can you do a similar post for potty training?? My three and a half year old is fighting me tooth and nail! I feel like I have tried every method out there to no avail!

    • Emily says...

      Maybe abandon it for a month or two? Like, back to diapers, no mention of potty training at all? Sometimes the pressure of potty training makes kids more resistant. Our daughter was tough like this. It had to be on her terms/timeline….

    • Cynthia says...

      I feel for you. My youngest was really stubborn(in her thirties now) and was three years old. I was getting all kinds of grief from my mother-in-law. I had a potty chair in each bathroom because we had and still do, a 2 story house with a bathroom on each floor. I don’t think pull ups were around then. She wanted big girl panties, so I let her pick out some and we went home and she put them on. A little later, she wet her pants and was horrified. From then, she was dry during the day, and she wore a diaper at night. Going poop in the potty came a little later.

    • Maddy says...

      My first basically potty trained himself. My second child fought me so much. I abandoned it for a couple months and when she was ready slowly circled back to it and it literally was two days and done. I did keep her little potty training books around and the undies in the drawer, but no talking about it during that time. She kinda came to it on her own. Wishing you the best in whatever you choose to do.

    • Laura says...

      Agreed! My daughter will be 3 next month and we have been very lucky that she has always been a good sleeper and hit all of her other milestones without much trouble. Now, most of her friends are potty trained and despite being successful a few times, something seems to have caused a mental block for her. I realize she isn’t super late yet and try to remember that she’ll do it when she’s ready, but it’s hard!

  76. Kate says...

    I loved reading this article and I loved reading the comments even more. I am a bit outside of the demographic here- but I would like to share something that I see as the mother of adult children. I always feel proud of the young women and men who comment about parenting in this blog. You are the epitome of love, compassion, and intention. As you struggle through these parenting moments, you undertandably get caught up in the moment, getting through, and moving forward. But let me tell you what I see- a group of parents who are modeling for their children that we all struggle but that we stick together, ask for help, and find what works. Your children will be better for your efforts- both because of the solutions that you find and because they see you go through the process of working together to be a family and to help them become the best people possible. Keep up the good work you lovely Moms and Dads!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, kate, what a beautiful comment! thank you so much for taking the time, and for these kinds words.

    • Emily says...

      First time mom of twins over here who is struggling through most days and needed to hear that! Thank you for this sweet message. Made me cry.

    • Lucy says...

      Emily – my twins are now five and I feel like I am in a very different place, but I remember those early days (except for the parts I blocked out!). I cried so much because it felt like I was doing everything wrong. My kids didn’t meet the milestones of the children of my other singleton friends, I was so sleep deprived and as a result I would get easily frustrated with them, and it was such a struggle just to get out of the house. But I am telling you it gets easier. And the bond between your children, and you, will be so strong. Twins are such a gift. Keep up the good work and just know that you are not alone!

    • Caitlin says...

      Kate this moved me to tears (and not just because I am a sleep deprived new mom)! What a lovely perspective.

  77. txilibrin says...

    I transitioned my 18 mo baby to his own bed, and everything was so smooth! Now, he started waking up at 12 crying because he wants someone with him, so I go there.
    We moved him so early because we are having a second baby in July, so we thought the best will be for him to be out of the crib with enough time not to hate his brother for stealing his property :D

    I love the technique, but I’m not sure how to deal with a 20mo baby now, that cannot speak his emotions out, and cannot even talk (bilingual family, so it is taking him a bit to really talk). Any ideas? I usually sit with him playing dead until he falls asleep and then I go. If I try the chair thing, I’m not sure if I’ll manage for him to stay in bed. HELP from a super pregnant mom (11 weeks left!)

    • Hilary says...

      Taking Cara Babies! Follow her on instagram and go to her blog. She has sleep programs for newborns all the way to 24 months.

    • Rosie says...

      Regarding the talking, you weren’t asking for advice, but we’re bilingual too and we were excited to raise a daughter who spoke two languages, but our pediatrician who also raised bilingual kids advised us to only use once conversationally until she was about 3 and then completely swap to the other one a couple of days a week. Now that she is 5 we speak English during the week and French on the weekend!

    • txilibrin says...

      Thank you ladies!!!

  78. Oh my GOODNESS, do I ever identify! You did so awesome, Alyssa, and I’m psyched that your family is in a good place now with sleep. Sleep is 100% the hardest part of parenting — both getting enough as a parent and teaching your child good sleep habits.

    I love how you said “the kind of “adulting” you gotta do, and deal with” because when our daughter has had sleep regressions, I totally, biologically revert to where I was after she was first born, overwhelmed with postpartum anxiety. It’s so hard to think your child might feel abandoned or scared or lonely or myriad emotions we project onto them, but you’re so right that we’ve got to just suck it up, buttercup. Duh, it’s hard and it stinks, but we’ve gotta do it.

    Thank you for sharing your story! No parenting advice to give here, just wanted to say that I feel you and I’m with you. :)

  79. Becky says...

    Ah the eternal sleep debacle. My kiddo hasn’t really ever had trouble falling asleep but staying asleep is another matter. I get frustrated that all the expert advice suggests that if your child falls asleep on his/her own then they will be able to “self-soothe” and fall back asleep in the middle of the night. This just isn’t the case with my little guy. He likes falling asleep on his own (he will even tell us to leave the room at bedtime) but he’s almost guaranteed to wake up at least once, twice or more every night. We’ve had a few full night sleeps now that he’s two so I’m hoping he’s starting to get it. I’m pretty tired and so is my husband but we aren’t the type to let our son cry longer than a couple of minutes. We figure if he tells us to leave sometimes then when he needs us, he must really need us. The broken sleep is definitely one of the hardest (day to day) things about parenting.

    • Laura says...

      This is my problem. My 4 year has never slept through the night (!!). His older brothers have managed fine. He will go to sleep by himself and stay asleep anywhere from 4-6 hours, but then sure enough he always wakes and wants to come to my bed. I told him when he recently turned four that now he has to stay in bed all night (he’s not alone- he shares a room with his brother) and he agreed! But of course then he still wakes up. I’ve kept assuming that eventually he will work it out as he gets older, but here I am with a 4 year old in my bed every night!

  80. cg says...

    My child spent her first year in an orphanage, so she learned how to sleep amongst noise and activity. When we became a family we thought we hit the jackpot because she slept so well. Sure she fussed at times, but we didn’t experience any of some of the challenges others have mentioned.

    When we decided to get her a toddler bed, we had her be a big part of the process -from picking out the bed, helping us “assemble” it, picking out sheets, and a new night light. But change is hard and while she was happy and excited about her new bed, she wanted us. So we climbed into bed with her. Then she clutched our hand and we couldn’t break free after she fell asleep without waking her up. So we sat next to her and put our hand/arm on her and patted. Then we stopped patting and just had our arm on her. Then we sat next to her and put our hand on her hand. It took a while, but she finally did it. For some time she didn’t even want us to tuck her in, instead choosing to come to us to get a kiss and hug goodnight after a story and we thought we won the lottery. Then a couple of years later she asked to be tucked in again. She’s a teen now and still likes for us to go into her room to give her a kiss goodnight. Just when you think you have it figured out, they go and change on you, that’s the one thing you can be sure of in parenting.

    • cg says...

      I forgot to mention a little funny:
      One night she went to bed quite smoothly. We were a little shocked and very happy, but she was sleepy after all. We decided to put on Netflix and have a little crunch snack in bed to relax. Suddenly she bursts into our room, hair disheveled, squinting in disbelief and exclaimed “Why mommy and daddy eating snack in bed!?!?”
      Busted.

  81. taylor says...

    If you are having trouble, I recommend TAKING CARA BABIES. This woman has been a total god send and has made the infant phase one of full night sleeps in the crib. I do not know what I would have done without her knowledge and guidance.

    • Linds says...

      I’m taking her online newborn class now! Our second little is coming in the next few weeks and I already feel more confident at just “tip #2.” I’m so grateful for the resource and know that will ring even truer once this baby is in my arms.

  82. Sarah says...

    I have a terrible sleeper. At 18 months she’s still a challenge but slowly getting better over time. We tried everything. Eventually, I went to see a social worker specializing in infant and child development. I learned its actually more about what you do with a kid all day that helps them sleep at night. A routine is still important, yes, but actually secondary. This means enough physical and mental exercise and social stimulation, enough connection with the parents, enough food before bed, etc. It makes sense. I work as a nurse and my bedridden patients usually request sleeping pills. They don’t move all day and they are usually pretty bored. Honestly, if you’re tired enough, nothing will stop you from sleeping.

  83. taylor says...

    yesss!!!!!! LOVE TAKING CARA BABIES!! total game changer!

  84. Emily says...

    Setting healthy, consistent, and clear boundaries for your kids (sleep, eating, behavior, etc) is one if the most important and also the toughest parts of being a parent.

    Gentle sleep train worked well for our 2 kids (now 4 and 2). Do they still whine at bedtime, sometimes! Do we have bad nights where it all goes to hell, of course! But being consistent about sleep has made such a difference for everyone in our family.

  85. Hilary says...

    For those with babies or little ones, I highly recommend Taking Cara Babies. Even if you don’t buy her programs, her blog and instagram/instastories are filled with amazing tips! Totally a place of no judgment, just helping you find what’s right for you and your little one!

    • Abby says...

      I so agree with this. Have a two month old that sleeping pretty well (in his crib) all due to Taking Cara Babies. She’s a life saviour. Her Instagram is great when you need a boost of confidence !

  86. Sarah says...

    Omigoodness this is amazing. I have a nearly two year who sleeps in our bed every night. We started our co-sleeping intentionally but then a year passed and I just figured that if you didn’t get sleep figured out in the first year you were doomed. I had accepted our fate but this gives me hope. Thank you so much!

    • Justine says...

      Nope – you aren’t doomed! I co-slept as a survival mechanism for the first four years of my son’s life. I’m in the parenting camp of “do what gets everyone in the house the best sleep possible, especially Mom”, and co-sleeping is what let me and kiddo get the best sleep for many years. When I was feeling very pressured to move him into his own bed, I tried it, and then said screw it because sleep training felt wrong to me (not a judgment here, just my personal feelings at the time), and co-sleeping was still giving me the better sleep.

      Eventually, I was ready for more personal space and my sleep starting being disrupted by a squiggly 4 year old toddler, so we bought a double sized bed and moved him slowly into that.

      The best thing anyone every said to me was that your kid won’t be sleeping with you or wetting the bed when he goes to college – all things in good time. And that has certain proven true for the many parents I’ve been fortunate to parent along side, all of whom had very different approaches to managing/guiding sleep, feeding, potty training, and what have you.

  87. Louise says...

    This gives me some hope. Our seven year old is just now sleeping in his own bed. Our two year old usually winds up in our bed at some point during the night. It’s exhausting because she generally sleeps sideways. She woke up at 2 this morning asking where her ball was.

    • Kelly says...

      haha my almost 3-year-old ends up in my bed every so often and asks ridiculous things like that too.

      and her older sister ended in my bed every night for years…once she poked me and said, “Mama? Snax-o-phone is a funny word.” So funny, and so annoying!!!

    • Hannah says...

      We cosleep with our 2 younger children (3 and 6 months) and the oldest goes to sleep with cuddles from his dad then sleeps by himself. We started cosleeping when my first was 6 months as we tried sleep training and it just wasn’t for us. It was making me really anxious and depressed. Since starting cosleeping the worry about sleep just went away. I remember how much stress it used to cause me but now I know we are all happy and well rested. It just works for us. My husband loves getting more time with the kids since he only sees them for a short time after coming home from work. It makes him feel more connected with them having cuddles and having them nearby. I know it doesn’t suit everybody but I do feel there can be an unnecessary amount of hostility towards cosleeping. I noticed this in the comments on the cosleeping post linked to this post. Bit sad really. I loved this post and thought Alyssa’s approached seemed sensible and respectful. It’s not my choice because I didn’t experience the problems cosleeping was causing for her but I’m sure if circumstances were different for my family I’d do the same thing. I’m a definite believer that children are who they are and to some extent we just react to that. My first stillhas trouble getting to sleep. My second with the same approach to sleep is out like a light in seconds 🤷‍♀️

  88. amy says...

    i can’t tell you how much i needed this. thank you Cup of Jo.

  89. Nicole says...

    Great read! It’s fun to read another perspective and other experiences. I’ve been lucky and all three of my children had no problem whatsoever sleeping in their own rooms, in their own beds. I moved each one from my bedroom to their own room at about six months of age and never looked back.

  90. The timing of this is too spot on! My two and a half year old has suddenly stopped sleeping through the night when we brought her baby brother home – she wakes up, at least once a night and walks into my husband and my room and says “I want to play” – it doesn’t happen at the same time every night (midnight sometimes, 2 am sometimes, 6 am this morning which sort of felt like a win) The time doesn’t seem to correspond to anything like the baby crying. We calmly walk her back to her room and say “it’s sleeptime” and get her tucked back into bed. Most nights (but not all) she just falls back asleep. Hoping it’s something she grows out of soon but if not, we might be calling “Andi the Sleep Lady”!

  91. Laura says...

    It’s not a surprise young children want to be near their parents at all times. Hundreds of years ago babies would be in danger or even eaten if they were separated by their parents. Bedtime is also the biggest separation from a parent and scary for a young child.
    I don’t believe in sleep training, and I think its an American invention as an attempt to force independence on a child to sleep when they might not be developmentally there yet. The saddest part of this article is the sleep expert encouraged to the mom to “not engage” with her daughter. This doesn’t seem very supportive of a child’s emotional needs.
    As Peggy O’Mara once said:
    “Don’t stand unmoving outside the door of a crying baby whose only desire is to touch you. Go to your baby. Go to your baby a million times. Demonstrate that people can be trusted, that the environment can be trusted, that we live in a benign universe.”

    • Courtney says...

      So what are the sleep-deprived parents supposed to do, suffer indefinitely? That’s not good for anyone, parent or child. Sleep deprivation is extremely unhealthy physically and mentally.

    • Hilary says...

      A lot of sleep training is NOT a “cry it out” kind of method these days. Like other parenting tasks, you’re helping your baby learn how to sleep. My baby is learning how to pull up and walk, and sometimes she falls. I comfort her and kiss her and hold her, but I don’t walk behind her so she never falls. That’s part of learning. I know I’m a better mama (and wife and employee and friend) when I’m well rested. My baby is also happier when she gets a great night’s rest. Sleep programs aren’t always just throwing your babe to the wolves to sort things out!

    • Kelly says...

      I see what you mean, Laura, but babies are different than children who are three and up. Parents need sleep too, and the fatigue of fighting sleep issues with a young child can create serious physical and psychological effects for the adults as well. I think that there are ways to assure children while also handing them the tools to grow.

    • Rachel says...

      Children are individuals. They are not an extension of their parents. There are many ways to show a child that they can trust and rely on you without suffering sleep deprivation. Children need sleep to grow. Parents need sleep too. I think this is one of the times you should say “good for her not for me” and move on. There is no reason to make someone feel guilty for teaching their child an important life skill.

    • Kristin says...

      And here comes the judgmental sleep police. The little girl is 3 and a half!!! Obviously people should comfort a crying baby but I think it’s entirely reasonable to teach a child that age how to sleep in their own bed. If the family was happy with co-sleeping it would be a different story. But the adults aren’t sleeping. How ridiculous of you to try to shame them.

    • anon says...

      Can we not start judging other parenting styles and take mommas down for their choices? We can respectfully disagree with other people’s choices and decisions (such as hiring a sleep trainer, etc), just as I respectfully disagree with Ms. O’Mara -while *most* people can be trusted, we do not live in a benign universe. There is evil out there. But beyond that, I just think that each child is unique, as each parent has a unique set of criteria and circumstance they’re working with. So if someone needs to teach their kid how to fall asleep and it requires a little bit of tough love, so be it. While co-sleeping is just as awesome, it’s not for everyone. There’s so many way to parent, and we’re all going to nail it some time and we’ll also bomb it other times.

    • Roseanna says...

      Laura–hundreds of years ago parents didn’t work 50 hour weeks to be able to feed their children, have day cares that they needed to send their children to, operate thousand pound vehicles to drive to said work and day care, which require a good nights sleep.

      Humans adapt, giving in to the cries of a baby, who DOES only have those base instincts, does nothing to help them survive in today’s world. It’s not ignoring the needs of a child to follow the guidance of an expert (presumably someone who has done the work on what does and doesn’t meet a child’s emotional needs)–it’s setting up a system that is beneficial to both child and parent so the parent CAN parent.

      This struck a nerve with me because moms truly cannot win–if we sleep train our baby we’re cold and uncaring about the baby, if we let the baby sleep with us until they’re no longer babies–then we’re enablers, putting our children before our marital intimacy. You can raise your babies however you want, so can Alyssa.

    • Emma Bee says...

      It’s totally fine to not sleep train your kids, if thats what works for you and your family!

      I tend to think about it more in terms of health and safety – you don’t let kids not buckle into their carseats or eat cookies all day just because they want to (or throw screaming fits). In the same vein, you dont let your 2 year old stay up all night either.

      Setting gentle but firm and consistent boundaries around sleep/bedtime means everyone is able to get good rest. It is not healthy or safe for kids to be sleep deprived.

    • E says...

      Totally agree with Courtney and Kelly. When our young son was waking up super early in the morning (think 5am and sometimes earlier), our pediatrician said there wasn’t anything medically wrong, but what she failed to see was the toll it was taking on our whole family. A sleep consultant was the best investment we’ve made. Also, a good one should ask plenty of questions to determine if there’s a medical issue that should be taken into account (that also helped put my mind at ease).

    • Frannie says...

      Teaching children boundaries and limits is one of the most loving things we can do. I have found that families that have trouble setting limits around bedtime often have trouble setting limits in other areas as well. I very much believe in sleep training and I work with children and families every day! Many mothers and fathers have to work while having young children. It is the best for everyone’s health to have a child who can go to sleep and stay in their bed for the night. For families that choose to co-sleep this can still work. Hundreds of years ago everything was different… there are ways to help children sleep through the night that don’t involve wrecking their social emotional development, and the article above does that beautifully. It’s not about not responding to very young babies!

    • Erin says...

      The form of “not engaging” recommended by this sleep training expert was to be physically present but *really, really boring* at bedtime. That’s a totally appropriate strategy to meet the emotional needs of a 3.5-year-old, who needed to learn that she was safe in her own bed and her parents were nearby to take care of her in an emergency, but that “I want 2.5 hours of bedtime stories” did not constitute an emergency.

    • Elsa says...

      Laura, I completely agree with you. Babies and small children don’t know that the world has modernized and mom and dad need to drive a car and work and be separated from them all day. Sleep training forces children to fit into our modern world, but of course evolution hasn’t moved that fast. A child wanting to be with their parents at night time is completely normal – of course children are programmed to be sure their protectors are close at all times. The bigger problem is maternity leave in the US doesn’t allow children to be with their parents the way they should be. Id encourage naysayers to listen to Gabor Mate on the Goop podcast. A strong attachment to parents is essential, parenting isn’t a part time gig. Children aren’t toys you put away at night. If you are okay listening to your child cry for you and ignore them, you are ignoring your basic instinct. I understand a mother’s mental health is important, but I’d encourage everyone to research the affects of a weak attachment on children’s brains. If you don’t respond to your child, you’re telling them their own mother/father isn’t someone they can count on, nothing good can come from that. Again…it comes down to the terrible maternity leave in the states…

    • Rosie says...

      Sleeping separately isn’t exclusively American. I just had this conversation with a large group of friends the other day and only one had a parent that allowed them to sleep in their bed growing up. Half of us had grown up in the US and the other half were either first-generation Americans or had grown up elsewhere. My Canadian friend slept with her mom until she was seven because she was a single parent and they didn’t have room for multiple beds in a studio apartment, but the rest of us were brought up with the expectation that our parents are in one bed and kids are in another.

    • Louise says...

      Different strokes for different folks

    • Rachel says...

      Elsa- did you just suggest parents do research and then site a Goop podcast? Also- there is a wealth of research on parental attachment and the issues it highlights are worlds away from standard sleep training. You are conflating true attachment issues with the loving boundaries this mother is setting.

    • Hannah says...

      I agree with you in that this is how I parent. I don’t like letting babies cry and even my 6 year old is still very much needing of emotional support at bed time. He’s anxious by nature. BUT I think the very most important thing is that things work for everyone in the family. You can’t be a good parent if you are exhausted and miserable with your situation. We all have realities of work, other children, partners etc to consider and there are so many ways to have your children and yourselves have a good night sleep. Children are people too and their needs and emotional lives need to be respected but that can happen in a lot of different ways. I felt that Alyssa involved her daughter in the process in an age appropriate way and her approach clearly worked for her family

    • Laura says...

      I admittedly am Canadian, not American. I am off on my year long mat leave from my unionized government job that has supportive family benefits. Sleep training is definitely a thing here but I think less pervasive than in America. I can’t imagine functioning at work with hardly any sleep.

      Instead of moms fighting each other over the topic, why don’t you demand more from your government? Women need their villages back. We need support. We need paid mat leave. We need work policies that are conducive to a good family life. Most women sleep train because they feel like they can’t function being sleep deprived and they have no other choice. Really, I think these mommy wars are really a distraction. Instead of fighting our government for a a family friendly society, we argue with each other.

  92. Rebecca says...

    I’ve thankfully never had sleep issues with any of my three kids, they don’t even get out of bed to ask for anything like water or another book, or whatever. And my mother in law, who spends far more time with my nieces and nephews, always comments about how easily my kids go to sleep (my nieces and nephews, not so much). We just never have made bedtime a thing other than bedtime. You put on your pajamas, brush your teeth, read a book, lights out, and then you go to bed at a consistent time each evening. My kids all have very different personalities, and I feel like if you don’t make bedtime into anything complex, or offer any options other than going to sleep, your destined for easy bedtime, with pretty much any child.

    • Olivia says...

      32 weeks with my first and this is a great reminder to be as consistent as we say we are going to be once baby is born. I gather it can be done! It kind of seems like you have to put in the work/sleepless nights at some point, whether early on or at Hazel’s age (or like my godparents, when their twins were about TEN!!!!). We’ll see!

    • Stephanie says...

      You’re so lucky to have had good sleepers. It is likely that your children, while having different personalities, share a similar innate temperament.
      T emperament is a key part of sleep ability.

      It’s never fair to assume any one method works for all people. And certainly you can’t make those assumptions when medical conditions could be part of the mix of reasons for sleep troubles.

    • Ali says...

      My only child is 7 years old and is easy going, loves school, tries new food and is polite almost all the time. However, bedtime has always been a bit of a struggle. We’re figuring out what works for us and we’ll get there.
      I try to be very careful not to tell others that if they just did what we’d done their child would eat/read/say thank you like my child. It’s tempting to take all the credit when something goes well, but as often as not it’s luck or a happy accident.

    • Jill Palumbo says...

      Mine were also good sleepers, and like you, bedtime was never a huge production. Baths, teeth, story and then sleep. Sometimes when they were toddlers, I might have to lay with them, but that didn’t last long. I do think consistency, loose schedules, and lots of activity during the day is the key. We never co slept (husband was a large, heavy sleeper), but our house was small and I could hear them clearly. Now they are grown and use the same methods on their children. Sleep is important for parents as well as children.

    • Kelly says...

      I think the entire point of this article and the comments is that people are trying not to make bedtime “a huge production,” and just want the kids to sleep. These flippant comments that if people just don’t make it “complex” then they’ll be fine and have easier sleepers is so discouraging and, frankly, untrue. I have a 2.5 year old so can see through these types of comments, but for new Mom’s like the first sub-commenter here, I would just say that yes, consistency is great, setting up a schedule, doing sleep training at some point, etc, but please don’t feel bad if you do all of that and your kid just takes longer to sleep through the night or regresses at some point. It’s particularly unhelpful when you give “advice” that doesn’t actually provide any specific tactic or tool and also implicitly judges others or assumes they making something more complex than necessary.

    • Kelly says...

      hahahahaha!

      you are hilarious.

    • Elsa says...

      I’m so glad you’ve cracked sleep issues Rebecca ;)
      Seriously though, you just got lucky. The rest of us are not inept parents…
      Your poor SIL/BIL, I hope you don’t say this to them

    • Erin says...

      Ali, I just wanted to say that I love your comment. So well-said. I was just saying to my husband the other day that we should be careful being smug about “how good” our 2.5 year old daughter is in restaurants and assuming that it’s because we’ve always taken her out since a very young age and expected her to sit at the table the entire time without a device. It’s easy to take the credit (who doesn’t love patting themselves on the back!), but especially now that we have a second child on the way, I try to remember that different children (people) are just different. We all do our best and certainly we can influence and help shape certain things, and it’s good to have goals and a plan, but it’s not always so simple. You’re so right that we should try to be sensitive and aware and not suggest to others that there is a “one right way” approach. Thank you for your wise comment, Ali.

    • Rebecca says...

      Ladies, sleep is important to me, so I have focused a lot of energy on achieving that. And just because my kids sleep well doesn’t mean I don’t have other kid issues. Maybe your kid doesn’t take three bites of dinner every night and then ask “What’s for dessert?” like mine does. The topic here is sleep, and this has worked for me. I apologize for assuming that it would work for pretty much any child. I have been able to get my niece and nephew to sleep successfully by sticking with the bedtime routine on the occasions that I’ve been with them. Same with kids I babysat when I was younger. So, if someone takes away something here, that’s awesome. If not, it’s okay. If I upset anyone, I’m truly sorry–that was most definitely not the intention.

      And, if something goes well for you as a parent, take some credit. Parenting is hard work, and parents do have a small hand in their kids’ successes. No one should feel shamed for taking some of that credit. Erin, you should totally take some credit for your daughter sitting nicely at restaurants, you’ve likely put in a lot of work and patience to get to where you are today.

      Love to all the parents out there, cut yourselves some slack and be proud of the areas in which you excel. That’s what’s going to carry you through the rough patches.

  93. Steph says...

    So great that you found what works for you.

    I felt so guilty (and exhausted) about how poor of a sleeper my daughter has always been, but I also knew something wasn’t right. Now I know she has a disorder that actually prevents her from sleeping normally, and I am so glad I did not push her with a cry it out method or some other sleep training that couldn’t possibly work for her. She just turned 3 and neither of us have slept through the night in 3 years. I am so exhausted, but am hoping one day we will both be able to sleep.

  94. Hilary says...

    We juuuuust dealt with this. Like, as of this weekend. The excitement of the big girl bed has worn off and now she’s taken to wandering into our room in the middle of the night, or worse, just refusing to sleep in her room to begin with.

    Two things are helping:
    1) Her paci is now a bargaining chip. She used to be able to use it to soothe whenever she needed it, but now it’s for long car rides and sleeping in her own bed only. Suffice to say, nap time and bed time are now so enticing because she gets to have her paci back!

    2) More snuggles pre-bed! We used to read, sing and then it was lights out. Now we snuggle and rock, we do a lot more singing and talking about how much we love her, how great our day was, and how great tomorrow will be once she’s well rested. We also talk about all the things she can dream about while she’s sleeping in her bed! Apples, unicorns, sidewalk chalk…I just start naming things she loves and then she chimes in. It makes bedtime a lot longer, but then she actually goes to bed, so it’s worth it.

    Good luck to all sleep deprived mamas and dads out there!

    • Mk says...

      I found for sleep training you gotta stick to a routine and just do it for awhile.

      We decided to do cry it out as a baby and I had to leave and my husband did it because it was too hard for me. He would do time limits and then go in and talk to our child and then leave again each time waiting for time say first time 7 minutes next time 10 time time 15. It took a few nights but then it stuck. But no one really tells you about sleep regressions. We basically had to retrain at certain periods so it was like step 1 again for a few nights a few times in the first 18 months. Yikes.

      Not every routine will work for every child or family and that is okay. It’s about survival people! Survival! We still have nights where our child wakes up a few times etc but for the most part he’s good and sleeps 10-12 hours.

      I find if you cave in the routine in the beginning you are totally screwed. I always wanted to go in after five minutes of screaming (probably also because we live in a townhouse so his bedroom wall busts up to our neighbors guestroom). Whenever I went in and didn’t stick to the routine it made it far worse. Different things work for different people but stick to the routine that works for you stick to it!!!