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A Pediatrician Shares a Step-by-Step Guide to Teach Your Child to Sleep Alone

The moment your child switches from a crib to a bed, you may expect them to stay asleep so you can finally get some rest. But most kids at this age won’t let that happen and keep crying, pediatricians say. So, in this case, good sleep training methods are needed.

We at Bright Side wish you nice, relaxing nights and would love to share some tips for sleep training older children as suggested by the director of the Yale Pediatric Sleep Center.

1. Start with during-the-day training.

  • Make a habit of enforcing bedtime during the day. You can even have them brush their teeth and read them a story. Wear pajamas and take all the necessary steps that you normally do before sleeping at night. Don’t forget to give praise to your kid each time they stay in bed alone.
  • Don’t be serious. Just make it fun like it’s a game. You can pretend that you’re the child and have your kid be the parent. Take a teddy bear to bed. This is how you can start practicing sleeping with a favorite toy. Your child should feel excited when it’s time to go to bed.
  • Do this during-the-day practice a few times per week. The more often you train like that, the more effective it will be.
  • Do this training at least a few hours before bedtime. The best time is to do it in the morning or in the afternoon.

2. Increase the time they stay alone in bed by taking breaks.

First of all, you need to find out how long it typically takes your child to fall asleep after you turn out the lights. It’s easy to find out, especially if you stay with your baby before they fall asleep. Of course, this technique needs a lot of energy and patience. You may feel lazy — especially if you have a job to worry about — but soon you’ll be able to sleep peacefully.

This is how the whole process should look:

  1. Have some sleep training during the day so your child knows what to expect.
  2. Have a regular routine like brushing teeth and putting on pajamas. Say nicely that you love your child and that it’s time for bed.
  3. For example, when you turn off the lights at 8:00 p.m. it may take 15 minutes for your child to fall asleep. At 8:10 p.m. tell them that you’re taking a quick break. Then leave the room and promise that you’ll come back soon.
  4. Return to the room in one minute and start praising your child. It should be like they won an Academy Award. Say things like, “Look what a big kid you are! You stayed in bed and are so cozy! Great job!” Hugs and kisses are also needed.
  5. Now stay in bed until your child falls asleep.
  6. Do the same thing the next night, but leave the room for 2 minutes, and then the third night for 3 minutes. The amount of time your child is able to be alone at night will slowly increase.

You can stop doing this once your child falls asleep independently for a week or when you can take a 30-minute break.

3. Use “excuse-me training” if your child is too rebellious to stay in bed.

This is a variation of the previous practice. The difference is that it involves taking many short breaks. The pediatrician says it works especially well for children who tend to cry or get up when you leave, even for a minute. Just have some patience and good results will come soon.

This is the method:

  1. Just like in the previous case, you need to sleep-train once or twice during the day while enforcing your normal bedtime routine. And don’t forget to say good night nicely.
  2. Turn off the light and leave the bedroom for a moment just to do something. It’s like you’re asking your child to excuse you for a moment because you need to switch off the TV, for example.
  3. Stay out of the room for 30-60 seconds. The time depends on how long your child can stay in bed alone without getting up.
  4. Now return to the bedroom and tell your child some nice words so they feel like it’s a big achievement to stay in bed alone.
  5. Step out again for a very short time. The first night you may need to do this 20-30 times. The second night, just increase the time you’re away so the breaks will be longer each night.

When your child will be able to stay in bed without you for a week, it’s a win.

What tricks do you use to make your child go to bed? Would you like to practice sleep training during the day?