Hi, I’m Kim West, the Sleep Lady and in this video blog, I’m going to answer Jenny’s question:
“Hello. I have a 2 1/2 year old little daughter that has been a horrible sleeper from day one. We’ve bounced her around from room to room her whole life. Doing that works best at any given time just so we can get some sleep. The most recent arrangement has been her on a sleeping bag on the floor next to our bed. We call it her spot. We make her start the night in her big girl bed but she’s allowed to come to our room and go back to sleep in her spot if she wakes up and wants to be close.
“Lately the spot hasn’t been good enough. She wakes up crying that she wants to sleep in our bed or I wake up to her climbing in to my bed. The problem is compounded by the fact that we have a 4-month old baby that of course sleeps with us. I think she sees her brother with us and wants to be with us too. She’s definitely “give me an inch and I’ll take a mile.” If we give in to her once, that becomes the new standard. I’m sad because I don’t want to lock her in the room and make her scream for 4 hours every night for 2 weeks to get her to sleep.
“And I don’t mind having her in our room but I don’t appreciate her still waking up after being given a compromise and demanding to be in my bed. I also don’t want her to feel unloved because we let her brother in bed with us and not her.
Understand Your Child’s Development
At 2 1/2, she’s probably not thinking this through as much as you are in a sense of, “ I’m going to see if I can take advantage of mom and dad’s generous offer for the spot and see if I can sneak in to their bed.” It happens behaviorally because she doesn’t really understand and doesn’t have the impulse control (which is really just beginning at 2 1/2) to understand “stay in your bed all night long.” Nor does she have that impulse control to say, “Oh, wait a minute, I’m supposed to stay in my bed when I wake up,” or “Oh, yeah, I’m supposed to go my spot.” 2 year olds don’t think like that quite yet.Also, she can absolutely be jealous that her 4-month old baby brother is in your bed. Who wouldn’t be? I would be too, if I were her. I want you to think thru your longer term sleep plans for baby brother. If baby brother is only sleeping or co-sleeping with you for X amount of time, let’s say 6 months, then come up with your plan for the next two months and then readdress whereeveryone will be sleeping. If you are going to co-sleep long term, then you might want to come up with a completely different plan that is fair for your 2 and a half year old because she’s not going to understand, “Hey, how come he gets to sleep there and I don’t?”
My guess based on what you’ve said is that you are probably not going to co-sleep with the 4-month old for the long term. For the short term, get a co-sleeper (if you don’t already have one) or put the baby’s bassinet or crib right next to your bed. That way (when you’re 2 1/2 year old comes in to your bed, you don’t have to worry about safety with co-sleeping with the 4-month old and your daughter rolling over on to the baby; you can have the newborn in a co-sleeper and have your 2 and a half old in your bed.
Decide Where Your Child Will Sleep
Additionally, I don’t think you can keep “the spot”, or you’d have to constantly redirect her to the spot. You would have to bring her back to her room and say, “if you can’t sleep in your spot, then you have to go back to your room. There’s no sleeping in mommy and daddy’s bed because it’s not safe right now with a little baby in here. Once your baby brother gets bigger, and he can sleep throughout the night, he’s going to sleep in his own bed: here it is! See this crib over here (or whatever it is you’re going to use)” and then return her to her bed.
I want to warn you that I’m not sure if she’s going to understand that. So, either choose a short-term plan (depending on what you want to do with the 4-month old), or bring her back to her bed and do the complete Shuffle.
At bedtime make sure that she’s awake and you’re sitting next to her. You’re not lying down with her. You may even have to eventually gate the door, have a sleep manners chart, and explain to her that baby brother will be sleeping in his own bed soon, too.
Hopefully baby brother is sleeping in some kind of separated safe area for naps like a co-sleeper, bassinet, or a crib. This would be a really great thing to show big sister, “See? This is where he sleeps. And eventually, he’s going to sleep in his crib over here and then in to his room,” or whatever the plan is so that she can see that this is temporary.
Good luck. It sounds like you have a lot of decisions to make, but know that there’s definitely sleep at the end of the tunnel.
Video filmed by In Focus Studios