Stop Sabotaging Your Kid’s Sleep

If your kids are struggling to get through the night, try these helpful sleep tweaks for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. DrLullaby’s founder, Lisa Medalie, PsyD, DBSM contributes to this Parents article, giving tips on sleep training, early naptimes, transitioning out of the child bedroom, and how to curb sleeping with them. Pick a method you can manage. When you’re ready to sleep-train (no earlier than 4 months), you have two options, says Lisa Medalie, Psy.D., director of the pediatric-insomnia program at The University of Chicago Medicine. You can put your baby down awake but drowsy and let her “cry it out” without reentering the room. Or you can slowly increase the time between check-ins the first night, from every five minutes for three nights, to every 10 for the next three, and so forth, until you no longer go in at all. If you choose the gradual method, don’t rub your child’s back or make eye contact. Just make sure your baby sees you, then walk back out of the room. Have him nap early. Make sure your toddler doesn’t snooze too late in the afternoon, since this will make it harder for him to drift off at night. “Naps shouldn’t start later than 2 p.m.,” says Dr. Medalie. Except when it’s unavoidable (such as at a childcare center), your child’s sleep location should be consistent. “Toddlers should be napping in their bed—not on the couch, not on your bed, and not on the floor,” says Dr. Medalie. Break away from his bedroom. Need to kick the habit of lying next to your child until he drifts off? Slowly transition yourself out over a few nights. “First sit at the edge of the bed as he falls asleep, then move to a chair in the middle of the room. Next move to the doorway, and finally go out into the hallway with the door open,” says Dr. Medalie. Curb co-sleeping. No matter how tired you are (and how cozy it might be to curl up with your preschooler), don’t let her slip into your bed during the night. “Bring her back to her room, and avoid talking to her or cuddling with her,” says Dr. Medalie. Encourage her to stay put by giving her two “bedtime passes” at the beginning of each night. If your child comes into your room, she must hand one over. If she has one left in the morning, she can exchange it for a sticker. This extra motivation might be all she needs to stay in her own sleep space.