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My 12-month baby doesn't want to fall asleep in her own bed. We could do it in her rocking cot, but now it's too small, and currently we get her to sleep outside of bed, but every time she wakes up she just wants to get out of the bed. As a result she increasingly has slept in our bed instead.

The recommendations I've seen online are either for babies so small they can't stand up or toddlers. They say the child needs to learn how to relax herself to sleep. But our baby is not old enough to understand what you say, but big enough to stand and jump in her bed, which means that every time we put her to her bed, she stands up, jumps up and down and cries. This of course doesn't help her to fall asleep and I don't see how this would help her to learn to sleep on her own either.

So any recommendations on how to do this for a 12-month old baby would be appreciated.

Update: I'm fully aware that there is nothing "wrong" about her sleeping in our bed. If we could have had her sleeping in our bed, we would have. It is not an option.

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You question implies that you feel that she should sleep in her own bed. Are you asking for her benefit or your own? Do you have a problem with her sleeping in your bed? If not, then just let her sleep there, it's not hurting anything, is it? –  Javid Jamae Mar 30 '11 at 6:02
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Yes, it is hurting something. Yes, she should sleep in her own bed. –  Lennart Regebro Mar 30 '11 at 6:05
    
She will fall asleep after a (possibly long) time from crying. While it feelds bad just let it go. –  Barfieldmv Mar 30 '11 at 7:00
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Nobody falls asleep from jumping up and down in the bed. I feel you didn't read the question properly. –  Lennart Regebro May 23 '11 at 7:37
    
Update: This problem to a large extent went away by itself when we stopped breastfeeding. –  Lennart Regebro May 23 '11 at 7:40

7 Answers 7

up vote 4 down vote accepted

With our twins (13 months old) we have a bedtime routine starting around 7 (earlier if they are cranky).

  • bath time (not every night)
  • diapers and pajamas
  • drink milk then brush teeth (just trying to start this)
  • say (wave) goodnight to everyone
  • then they walk to bed on their own (no carrying them if at all possible)
  • get their bedtime teddy bears, pacifiers, and blankets

I always keep a blanket out and go back in an hour later and cover them back up. I also leave extra pacifiers in their cribs in case they wake up during the night. Their teddy bears are always in their cribs, we use them to signal that it is bed time.

If they resist walking to bed I give them their teddy bears and "help" them to walk there. For us the key is that they have to walk to bed on their own each night after saying goodnight to everyone.

We don't keep anything in their rooms that may stimulate them. We even read books in the living room.

Once in their cribs we only go back in the room if they are crying hard and then repeat the teddy bear, pacifier, and blanket routine. Usually it is because they threw teddy or the pacifier out of the crib.

For now this is working, I hope it continues. If you start a routine and stick to it for a couple of weeks then tweak it if it doesn't seem to be working.

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I selected this as I really liked the waving goodbye and walking to bed routine. I do something similar where we go around and put all the lights out to signify the bedtime. –  Lennart Regebro May 23 '11 at 7:38

First, develop a bedtime routine -- brush teeth, get in pajamas, get in bed, read a story, have a special stuffed animal or favorite quilt, etc. This teaches your kid the mental process of accepting that this is time to sleep, and that time to sleep is good and comfy and relaxing.

Second, figure out why your child wants to sleep in your bed. Is it just an attention thing? Is she just used to it? Is she scared of something (the dark, a noise, the quiet, etc)? Chances are, since your child can't communicate it to you, this will take some guesswork.

  • If you use a baby monitor, you should be able to rule noise issues in or out.

  • Try a night light to rule out the "afraid of the dark" possibility.

If it's an attention/comfort/habit thing, here's how I've solved that in children her age before:

When the bedtime routine is done, sit in a corner of the room and read a book. Don't pay attention to your child no matter what she does, just be where she can see you while she is lying in bed. She's going to cry and scream and have a fit like she normally does, but after a few days that will start to fade, and you can start sitting just outside her room (where she can either see you or see/hear that you are there). In 2-3 weeks you should be able to go about your business normally once the bedtime routine is done.

Please note that this only works if your bedtime routine is unfailingly consistent. It's part of the recipe to give your child security and calmness at night.

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I'm sure it's just attention/habit. It means I'll have to sit there until she actually gets physically tired of standing up, which will take hours... :-( –  Lennart Regebro Mar 30 '11 at 6:13
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+1 for unfailingly consistent. It's actually the solution to most child-related questions on here, now I think about it. –  Zsub Mar 30 '11 at 6:56
    
@Zsub It really is. My son has experienced a lot of things other people seem to find upsetting (falling asleep to artillery fire nearly every night in our first home, travelling frequently from age 4mos., moving several times, having his father deployed, having me leave him for a month to care for his father in hospital, and more) and he's a really happy, easygoing kid. No matter where we were, we had the same essential routines, and if I'm not there, his grandparents do it in my place. –  HedgeMage Mar 30 '11 at 7:04
    
And what exactly is your recommendation for finding out why your 12 month old wants to sleep in your bed? –  Javid Jamae Mar 30 '11 at 13:22
    
@Javid As I said, you usually have to resort to guesswork. Try a few fixes, and see what works. –  HedgeMage Mar 31 '11 at 0:50

For my one year and a half old little boy, it has been as easy as letting him cry for sometime, with the 5 - 10 - 20 trick: He cries in bed, let him cry for 5 minutes and get him for a short hug, put back in the bed. He cries again, wait for 10 minutes, repeat. Then wait for 20 minutes.

Now he is happy to go to bed and can get himself asleep alone.

Maybe there is nothing wrong having the kid sleeping in your bed (except that mine is moving a lot), but I think there is nothing wrong in letting a baby cry for a while, and they will cry anyway.

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Ah, thank you, I never heard of the 5-10-20 trick. That sounds worth a try. –  Lennart Regebro Mar 30 '11 at 8:03
    
Hah, you beat me to it :-) –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 30 '11 at 9:32

As HedgeMage said, a routine is very very important, especially the story telling part. Let your kid sit with you or lay in her bed while you're telling it and she'll already slowly go into sleep mode. Also important, when she goes to stay with her grand parents or such, is that they follow the same routine.

This will not work after the first day of course, you'll need to be patient and both of you need to grow into the routine.

She might still start jumping the bed or get out of the bed or such. In that case you need the following approach.

The first 2 times: simply go into the room, pick her up, lay her down in bed and tell her 'now it's time to sleep'. Afterwards simply go in and lay her down and leave the room without saying anything. NEVER stay to talk with her, never take her out of the room, never give her more attention then simply picking her up and laying her down.

It's not easy, the first night might be hell, but you need to hang on. After a while (could already be the second or third night) she will start to realize that getting out of bed has no benefit, that it will not get your attention.

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Don't sit there for hours! That will not teach the child to fall asleep, and you're setting yourself up for thousands of wasted hours in the years to come. Instead, sit there for a while, sing a nursery song once or twice, and then explain that you are leaving the room and that you will return in a few minutes (toddlers have no idea of time but why not start teaching it?). Then really walk out of the room for two minutes. Leave the door wide open. Don't go back in even if there's crying. Go back in, another nursery song, explain, go out again. Leave the door ajar. Stay outside for five minutes. Repeat. Ten minutes. Repeat. Fifteen minutes. And so on. Do this every day, every week. The child can learn to sleep alone. Then close the door and start a party :-)

A solid bedtime routine is very important. It trains the child to wind down and prepare to sleep. It's also very important to keep the routine at the same time of day, not varied by a few hours depending on what fits best in your routine. Sorry, but parents rank second at this stage.

If darkness is a problem, keep the door open, or ajar. We have this too, and our solution is described above. Don't close the door too early, but little by little. We also have a small nightlight, so it's not totally dark (though it seems so if you're just walking in).

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Try taking off the side of her bed, and putting it side by side to yours, so it's basically one flat area where she can move freely, to her or our bed.

We tried this with out daughter and she responded by enthusiastically taking a camp there - that's when I knew it's the right time.

Now she sleeps sometimes in her bed, sometimes on out part and on most nights moves close to us throughout the night :).

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I edited this to get rid of the irrelevant (and frankly quite belittling) argumentative part, and kept the recommendation, which is good. That way I avoid having to downvote it and can upvote it instead. –  Lennart Regebro May 15 at 10:39

If your baby understands you (or even if they don't), tell them why you are leaving. I spend a lot of time putting my three children (1,3 and 5) to bed, probably 30 min each, but that is the only time of the day that they get individual "mommy time." Now the older two understand when I say goodnight, it's time to sleep, but until they were 2.5, I usually gave them some excuse as to why I had to leave. Mommy needs to go potty, get a drink, fold laundry, etc. and I always promise to check on them in a few minutes. 90% of the time, they were asleep before I came back 10 min later.

That strategy helped me a lot with bedtime once the older kids were in their own beds. Sleeping through the night is a different story. My 12 month old is driving me crazy! I just eliminated dairy from my diet (sucks! I can't even butter my toast!) thinking he may have an issue with it, but today I shared a Stromboli with my mom at lunch, not even thinking about the cheese! And he's been up twice since bedtime 4 hours ago :(

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No one left anyone or anywhere. It's still the same room. Also, the question explicitly says "But our baby is not old enough to understand what you say". –  Lennart Regebro Mar 19 '13 at 20:07

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