Last updated on April 4th, 2024

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Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

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Would you like me to answer your baby sleep problem in my next video? If so, submit your question to support@sleeplady.com. I will pick several questions a month to answer and post them here on the blog!

Hi, Kim West, The Sleep Lady and in today’s vlog, I’m going to answer this mom’s question:
“Our daughter just turned 3. We have never had real sleep problems but in the past 6 months, our 3-year-old has had quite a few milestones: changed rooms, potty-trained, not at night, and became a big sister, and now she’s waking every night anywhere from 1:00 to 3:00 a.m. She’ll get up and sneak in to our room. A lot of times I don’t even wake up, I just wake up with her sleeping on the edge of our bed. At that point, I just move her back to her bed. But in the past week, it’s starting to happen multiple times at night. Do I try to correct this now, maybe a baby gate or just let time run its course?”

Start When You Can Be Consistent

I don’t find that letting time run its course makes the problem get better on its own when it comes to sleep. It’s certainly possible but it’s not usually what happens. And yes, your daughter is going through a lot of changes. I don’t blame you if you want to wait, especially if you’re dealing with a brand new baby and are tired yourself. It’s completely up to you. But when you are ready (and I really would not start until you and your husband are rock solid ready) to be consistent, know that 3-year-olds are smart and they’re very good negotiators. We have to be on our toes to follow through and be consistent.
Once you do get to that place, then I would do a sleep manner chart and have a family meeting. Go over how proud you are of her, and what a great big sister she is, and all these wonderful things she’s doing. You have to help her remember her good sleep manners, which include sleeping in her room in her bed all night long just like she used to do.

Use The Shuffle

toddler sleep solutionsNow, I don’t know what’s happening at bedtime, but my guess is that you will have to stay with her and do The Sleep Lady Shuffle at bedtime also. I would also go over her sleep manners every night at bedtime. I have examples both in my book and in my workbook and in my courses online of typical good sleep manners to put on the chart, and then you can go over at them at bedtime and again the morning. Every single time she wakes up, I would return her quietly to her room.

Use a Sleep Light or Sleep Clock

I would get a wake up light, either a toddler clock or an appliance timer attached to a lamp. Say, “Sweetie, your wake up light is not on. It means you have to lie quietly in your bed,” Once she gets back into her bed, resume your Shuffle position. Do the same thing for each waking during the night. In the morning, review her sticker chart say, “Did you stay in your bed all night long quietly until your wake up light comes on? No, you did not. We have to practice that tonight.”

Consider Using a Gate to Set Boundaries

If you find that she’s still getting up frequently, then you might have to consider a gate. What I usually do is explain the gate this way to a child: “The Sleep Lady said that you’re so used to waking up and just popping out of your bed that you’re forgetting all about your sleep manners. So, this gate is going to help you. Now when you wake up, and pop out of your bed like you usually do. You’re going to get to your gate. You’re going to say, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m supposed to stay in my bed.’ And then when you remember your sleep manners, we won’t need the gate anymore.”
Now, I know that she’s not really going to say those things to herself, but this is how you will want to present it. That basically this is to help them remember to stay in their bed and that it won’t be needed afterwards. Some kids end up liking it. They say that it feels cozy. It’s like a little house. Other children can’t wait to get rid of it and following their sleep manners is an incentive to get rid of the gate.
Remember at 3, sleep coaching takes a little bit longer because they’re so smart and verbal so they try to negotiate and make little deals with you. Be prepared to hold to your plan and be consistent. And within two weeks, she should be back to her good sleep habits.
Video filmed by In Focus Studios

Ask your questions on the The Sleep Lady’s Facebook Page where Certified Gentle Sleep Coaches are available for further help. Celebrate your successes, too, by sharing your stories with others!  Supporting each other makes parenting so much easier!

Author: Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

My name is Kim West, and I’m the mother of two beautiful girls, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 21 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. My sleep journey began when I started experimenting with gently shaping my daughter’s sleep by not following the conventional wisdom at the time. After having success (and then more success with my second daughter!), I began helping family and friends and my step-by-step method spread like wildfire, exactly like an excellent night of sleep for a tired parent should!