If you would rather read than watch my above video then here is the transcript of this week’s toddler sleep question video:
Hi. Kim West, the Sleep Lady.
In this video, I’m going to answer Kim’s question. She wrote in the following:
“Dear Sleep Lady,
Could you please give me some advice on how to get both my children to sleep in their own beds? About a year ago I began working 4 nights a week, which meant that my husband started to put the boys to bed. They have a good routine: bath, story, then sleep; and they have their story in our bed, which is where they fall asleep. Our 4-year-old will then be carried into his own bed and stay there until maybe 2 or 3 am and then he’ll come in to our bed. However, our 20-month-old will very rarely even leave our bed. Even if he does, it’s only for an hour or two.
Obviously, having 4 of us in the bed is taking its toll and we’re all waking up moody and still tired. We want to try to get them both into their own beds, but the problem is when I’m at work my husband cannot be with both of them at the same time in separate rooms. I can’t even get any time off at work for the moment to try to help. Do you have a way that when I’m at work, my husband can manage to ease the kids into sleeping into their own beds? Everything I’ve read tells us to stay with one of our children in their own room and slowly work our way out. But this can’t be done with one parent and two children. I’d be grateful for your advice. Thanks so much for your help with this toddler sleep problem.”
It is difficult if you’re the only parent sleep coaching two children, and you want them to sleep in their own rooms instead of co-sleeping with you. From your question, I could not tell if you want the 20-month-old to sleep in a bed or in a crib in his own room. While I understand that you want them both out of your bed and into their own rooms, I would encourage you to have the 20-month-old be in a crib. He really is not old enough to understand, nor does he have the impulse control to stay in a big bed all night long. Hopefully having your 20-month old in a crib is a possibility; if not, the situation is not impossible, but it may be much more difficult for you to have him stay in his toddler bed at night.
Let’s assume that your 20-month old is going to transition from your bed into a crib. To do this, start on a night where both you and your husband are home together (I assume that you have at least one night per week where this happens, as you mentioned that you work 4 nights each week). This will ensure that one parent can coach the 4-year-old and the other parent can coach the 20-month-old. If you can’t be home to help (at least for a few nights), then I would have your husband start with the 20-month-old first. He can get your 4-year-old settled in his room, perhaps watching a quiet video (you don’t want anything that is going to be overly exciting), reading, or playing quietly. Once he has your 4-year-old squared away, he can focus on putting your 20-month-old to bed earlier. This should help, as most 20-month-olds go to bed earlier than 4-year-olds, (maybe around 7:00-7:30 p.m.) and he can sleep coaching your toddler with The Sleep Lady Shuffle.
What to Expect When You Transition Your Co-Sleepers to Their Own Beds
Now, when you begin The Sleep Lady Shuffle your husband is going to have to leave and do checks with the 20-month old. You can read more about timed checks in the age-appropriate chapter of Good Night, Sleep Tight. Once the 20-month-old is starting to go to bed on his own, then you can begin sleep coaching your 4-year-old.
Before you begin sleep coaching, I would have a family meeting with both of them and say, “Bedtime is going to change. Mommy and Daddy talked to The Sleep Lady and we’re going to teach you both how to sleep in your own beds, in your own rooms. You’re gonna feel so proud of yourselves when you do it.”
And finally, be patient. It’s going to take a few weeks and most importantly it’s going to take complete consistency on both of your parts, but it’s absolutely possible.
To read more about helping your children transition from co-sleeping to their own beds, I have written an article that offers additional tips for transitioning your co-sleeping toddler into their own bed.
Okay, good luck.
Kim West, The Sleep Lady
Do you have any tips for transitioning your toddler into his own bed?
Video filmed by In Focus Studios