Last updated on April 3rd, 2024

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

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This week’s “Ask the Sleep Lady” Toddler Sleep Help question:

” I need toddler sleep help! I have huge problems when it comes to putting my boys to bed. I have a three year old and a one year old. My three year old Parker gives me trouble every night. Sometimes I can’t get him to bed before 10:00 or 10:30 pm and he wakes up 3 and 4 times a night asking for warm milk. I have told him no milk in the middle of the night but then he starts yelling for it. But the big problem is my one year old Trevor and Parker just started sharing a room this week. And they wake each other up all through the night. I never get more than three hours of sleep. Any ideas to help me ?????”  Amy S.
Dear Amy-
You must be very tired! I have many ideas to help!
I noticed that you said your sons “just started” sharing a room. You can either temporarily separate the boys and sleep coach them and then put them back together with some understanding of the sleep manners expected of Parker since he is older; OR sleep coach them in the same room now. Just know that it may take a little longer with this latter option since there is no way around them waking each other up, just like with multiples (more on that later).
Since Parker is probably fairly sleep deprived he may be able to go to bed as early as Trevor needs to (7-7:30pm) in which case you can have the bedtime routine together.
If you choose to keep them in the same room then you can sleep coach them at the same time and use the Shuffle techniques. You can sit between the bed and crib and go over to the individual bedsides as needed to comfort each child. If both parents are available, you can each sit by one of your child’s bedside or crib during the first Shuffle position.
Many parents tell me they are worried about one child waking the other child in the sleep coaching process, so as a result they have been rushing in to soothe one child in order to avoid the other child waking up—like you giving Parker warm milk during the night when he screams. It’s tempting I understand but try not to fall into this trap. You are only going to perpetuate one child’s night wakenings by reinforcing one or both children’s sleep crutches. Whether you sleep coach one child at a time or both together you risk them waking each other up during the night either way! Parker may also know that you don’t want him to wake up Trevor and has learned that if he screams you will get him the milk. Then he’s in charge! Three year olds are smart!! You want to give the message that “No” means “No” so if you say “No more milk during the night” then it has to mean just that. If he wakes Trevor up in the process, you can either go over and attend to Trevor and come back to Parker or have the other parent attend to Trevor. Your response to Parker in regards to milk should not change. If you cave when he screams louder then you are teaching him to scream louder to get what he wants. I know this will be hard but it will be critical to your success!
I would follow each of the age related chapters for your boys in The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight. It will be important to have the family meeting with Parker that I outline in the 2.5-5year old chapter. I would also create a sleep manner chart and include as one of the Manners “Put Self Back to Sleep Quietly During the Night without Milk”. Make sure you explain the privilege of sharing a room and the behavior that is expected of Parker.
Remember, Amy this will take a little longer with two children in the same room but it is NOT impossible! Stay consistent, loving but firm.  You can do it! Your entire family will benefit by this!
Sweet dreams,

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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!