Transitioning a 3 year old to falling asleep on her own - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 10-04-2012, 04:40 PM - Thread Starter
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We have a very intense and persistent 3 year old who has always been a challenge in the sleep department. We have gotten to a point where once she is asleep, she will generally sleep pretty solidly though the night most nights. She has her own bed in our room (transitioned there when she was about 2.5 years old and she loves it). Previous to that we co-slept - side-carred crib. I am currently 31 weeks pregnant with twins.


The challenge lately is getting her to sleep. We've always laid with her (well once we were done nursing, around the same time as we transitioned her to a big bed) until she falls asleep. This has been great until a couple weeks ago when it feels as if my presence beside her at bedtime actually keeps her from falling asleep. She will talk to me incessantly about anything and everything and is very persistent about getting a response back. She has on the rare occasion fallen asleep on her own, so I know she can. I really want to transition her to being able to fall asleep without me (or dad) there. I'm starting to resent the time it takes for her to fall asleep and I really feel as if the constant talking and demanding a response from me is a game to her to keep herself awake (she does this boundary pushing a lot during the daytime in other areas as well).


DH is not totally sold on the idea of doing this transition, but I think would go along with it if I could come up with a solid plan. So far, the last 2 nights I've laid beside her for about 5 minutes, cuddling and talking, and then moved to my bed in the same room.... so she could get used to falling asleep without me physically there but with the comfort of knowing that I was still in the room. Once I felt she was comfortable with that, I was planning to do the same 5 minutes or so of cuddling and then go downstairs. Last night this worked fine but tonight not so much. She just sat up in bed and continued the same incessant chatter and insisting that I respond back. I felt again like my presence in the room just allowed her to distract herself from falling asleep (she's yawning all the time that she's talking to me). So I told her that I was going to go downstairs because she was having trouble not talking (I gave her a couple warnings). I came downstairs and she kept calling to me to come back up. She sounded a little upset but not too over the top distressed at all to me. DH went up, because I think he's not comfortable with her wanting someone and one of us not being there. I'm not sure where I stand. I think she's old enough that, unless she's obviously really distressed, she can handle a little disappointment in being separated from us at bedtime.


What are your thoughts? How did you transition your child to being able to fall asleep on their own? How long did it take? How old were they?

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#2 of 5 Old 10-07-2012, 09:46 PM
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Our spirited son is 4.75 years old and he has always had trouble falling asleep. At about three or later, it was easier for him to sleep through the night, but (like with you) it's REALLY tough to get him asleep.

He wasn't anywhere near ready at three, though, and as much as it pains me to say it, maybe your daughter isn't, either. I know it sounds horrible to consider, but maybe it would go easier for everyone if you waited a bit?

So after the rest of our very predictable nighttime routine, we snuggle our boy to sleep in his own bed. He has a light-up stuffiie, a bunch of books, a little flashlight, and lullaby music. I tell him I'll be back to check on him in a few minute after I get his little brother to sleep. I say that when I come in to see him, I'll give him four kisses, and he gets to pick where I put the last one. He loves that. It gives him some tiny feeling of control, even though sometimes he cries a little and really just wants to be with us in the bed.

He is asleep 95% of the time when I go to check on him.

The thing is, we have noticed that our mere presence seems to excite or agitate him. He cannot focus on relaxing and sleeping as long as there's someone to pay attention to. It led to struggles and really damaged our relationship. As much as it pains me each night when I really just want to gather him up in my arms and bring him to the Big Bed with me because he wants me to and he's so small and sad, it goes so much better when I stick to the routine.

I should also say that when I go up to bed, usually around 11p, I do bring him into the big bed with us, so he knows that will happen.

Hopefully someone else will be able to share some support/advice!

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#3 of 5 Old 10-17-2012, 09:25 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for sharing your experience.


We actually have been having great success lately in having her fall asleep by herself. We decided to talk to her about how we think it's harder for her body and mind to relax when we're lying beside her and she thought about it and then readily agreed with us that it was harder! So, what we've been doing after the bedtime routine (which ends in family reading on her bed) is she picks which parent will "start her off", meaning lie with her for 5 minutes or so. Often she talks about stuff that happened during her day or something that's being on her mind.... she wouldn't talk about this stuff before! And it's easier for me to relax and just respond to her, knowing that there's an end to it. Then I tell her I'm going downstairs and will come back to check on her in 10 minutes. Hugs and kisses, she cuddles a stuffie, and every single night she's been asleep at the 10 minute mark. It's a miracle! When her dad "starts her off", he does exactly the same thing, so there's consistency.


I've actually noticed a change in her daytime behaviour/mood as well since we've started this.... she's more cooperative and happy.... almost as if she feels like she accomplished something big and it's spilling over into the rest of her life.... like she feels more competent now. It's hard to explain, but it worked out really well for us so far. Coming up on a week of the new routine.

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#4 of 5 Old 10-17-2012, 10:33 AM
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That's wonderful to hear! I will keep my fingers crossed for you keep this thread in mind when transitioning DD away from nursing to sleep (it'll be a while, she's 1.5). We don't cosleep but I have to nurse her every time she wakes up and I often end up dozing off in the recliner with her in my lap. good sleep to every mommy, daddy and LO out there :-)
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#5 of 5 Old 11-01-2012, 12:58 PM
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Thank you for posting your experiences with the sleep transition.  We are working on this now with out 2.5 year old.  I will try some of these successful strategies.

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