Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How to Get Your Kid Out of Your Bed: No Tears Required

Whether you plan to sleep with your wee-one or not chances are your kid has ended up in your bed at some point. Studies show that 75% of expecting parents have absolutely zero intention of sharing a bed with their baby. Only ten weeks post birth 76% of all parents re-interviewed were doing so on a regular basis for several hours each night!

I would like to repeat -from the last post- that co-sleeping can be very dangerous when done improperly. There are parental weight limits, bedding and sobriety to consider. I'll try and write another post on safe co-sleeping soon but for now, back to the point at hand.


So how do we get them out? Even if you're into the whole Attachment Parenting thing, all parents have one thing in common... sooner or later we want out little heat-seekers out of our freakin' beds.

I start this process with my babies right around 18 months. By this time they understand that even though I'm in another room, I still exist. The whole object-permanence thing is in full swing.

So here's how the Chase's do it (a technique recommended by Dr. William Sears, ever-so-slightly modified by Desi Chase):

STEP 1-Lay in baby's bed with him/her. We use a toddler bed or a matress on the floor. Ummm... hopefully you're not using a crib. If you are please send me a picture of you following step one. Oh, the mental picture is glorious! Okay, stop distracting me.

Stay in bed with baby until he is asleep, then escape. When baby wakes up for a midnight cuddle grab your phone/alarm clock and join them back in THEIR bed until one or both of you fall asleep. If you hate this idea, put a blanket and pillow on the ground next to your bed and let them crash there. Remember this a weaning process. Baby steps are still progress.

STEP 2- After about a week or so sit at the end of baby's bed until they fall asleep. If they protest this change, so be it. You're still very close and they can tough it out a bit. If they seem legitimately devastated then consider giving it a bit more time. At this stage I recommend bringing a book and flash light or a laptop, basically anything to keep you from getting wicked bored. This is actually a really great time to read, meditate or pray.

STEP 3- Once baby seems comfortable with that, move to the doorway or a chair in baby's room.

STEP 4- Move to the hallway so baby can only see part of you.

STEP 5- Hang out in a near-by bedroom or meander around the doorway. If baby seems uncomfortable or scared tell him you'll be back in a few minutes to check on him and then go do a quick chore eat a brownie or whatever and then go check on him... no empty promises. They'll only make baby more clingy.

STEP 6- Enjoy your freedom. You did it and no one had to suffer! Hurray!

STEP 7- Tailor it to you and your kid. This method is not a science or a perfect formula. My daughter did not want to let us pass the "doorway step" so once we got sick of sitting in the doorway we told her if she was scared SHE could lay in the doorway and she did! She's 3 and has bad dreams from time to time so we do the blanket/pillow thing next to our bed if she gets scared or lonely.

Remember to be flexible, they're only little for so long and will NOT want you at night forever. Excluding illness, I can't even remember the last time our five year old woke us up in the middle of the night or needed us to help him fall asleep. I believe that since he was given so much reassurance as a tiny-tot, he has positive associations with bed time and is secure in his little man-ness to handle night time on his own... aka he is "securely attached" for you psychology buffs.

The gentle approach to night time independence really does make a lot of sense. Think about it. We humans (young and old alike) resort to two dysfunctional ways of relating when we feel insecure.

One, we get all needy and clingy or two, we get all weird, stand off-ish and isolate. Healthy relationships are built on trust, empathy and responsiveness. So why on earth would we subtract ourselves from our kids' night time world cold-turkey and ignore their cries? I'm just sayin'.