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Home » Featured, Toddler

Mission: Getting Toddler to Fall Asleep on His Own: Accomplished

Submitted by on Wednesday, 10 December 200880 Comments

About 8 weeks ago, we started on a mission that we thought would be impossible.  It was to get our toddler, Smarty Pants, to fall asleep at night on his own, without us in the room.

We did it.

I kept track of our mission along the way…the good nights, the bad nights, and the ugly nights…and I’m going to summarize it all for you here.  I’ll also tell you what I learned along the way and give you some tips of my own, should you wish to embark on such a journey.

We followed a method that we read in a book called “Supernanny”, by Jo Frost.  The net of the method is to first get your toddler to fall asleep with you sitting on the floor beside his bed, and then each night gradually move further and further from the bed, and closer and closer to the door.  You do this until you are outside of the room.

We liked this gradual approach because cold turkey approaches just didn’t work for us.  They left us with broken hearts and a screaming young boy running after us out of his room.

We started as the book suggested, getting out of his bed after his bedtime ritual, and sitting beside his bed on the floor.  It took about two weeks before we were able to do this without any protests from him.  Even after that, we still had the occasional “call back.”  We stayed firm and on the floor, and kept conversation to a minimum.  Usually we just said, “It’s okay, sleep” or simply, “Sleep.”

One breakthrough moment that I had was when, one night, I stood up from my position on the floor and kissed him on the forehead.  He had been protesting prior to the kiss, and after, he just dozed off without another word.  I was so impressed that I kept this ritual going for awhile, and it continued to work.

By about week 5 we were at the foot of his bed and he was able to fall asleep on his own with us there.  He didn’t mind when we got out of the bed, and things were looking up.  Despite this, felt that things were moving slowly, as we were still only halfway out of the room.

We decided in week 6 to take the plunge and leave the room completely after his goodnight ritual.  Much to our pleasant surprise, it worked.

In the two weeks since we reached that milestone, we have been able to read him a story, sing him a song, give him a kiss, and leave the room.  We still leave his bedroom door open and his nightlight on, but that is fine with us.  We usually go  back into his room one or two times to check on him and give him another kiss.  Sometimes he is awake for longer and just lies in his bed awake, and sometimes he falls asleep quickly and he’s already asleep by the first time we go back in.  Either way, he doesn’t cry or complain when we leave his bed or leave the room.

After he falls asleep, we turn off his nightlight and close his bedroom door.  He sleeps through the night without waking up.

For those of you who have read this saga from the beginning, you know this is a huge step forward from where we started.  Eight weeks ago, if we even tried to leave his bed, let alone his room, there would be tears all over the place.  Now we leave the room and he lies there until he falls asleep with no issues.

Needless to say, we are happy and proud of him.  He is proud of himself too.  He still knows we are there for him, and at the same time he has more confidence at bedtime, knowing he can fall asleep without us.  He knows now that he is safe and secure in his bed even if we are not in it with him, and that is important.

My overall advice is to be patient and perseverant, and know that you will get there eventually.  Trust me; if we did, anybody can.

If you are thinking of trying this out with your toddler, go for it.  Read the whole set of updates on our progress here, and contact me if you have any questions.  This is your mission too, should you choose to accept it.  Good luck!

Check out this link to see all the articles in this series:

Mission:  Getting Toddler to Fall Asleep on His Own:  Articles

Leave a comment and let us know if you are trying this out too, or if you would try it.

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80 Comments »

  • kompostela says:

    You’ve done good job:)))You have all reasons to be proud:))

    kompostela’s last blog post..My Toddler Painted Tulip

  • Head Jammer says:

    Thanks Kompostela, it took awhile and was a difficult journey at times, but we got there! Appreciate your support!

  • [...] Hot Topic » Mission: Getting Toddler to Fall Asleep on His Own: Accomplished Wed, 10/12/08 – 21:44 | 2 Comments [...]

  • Cici says:

    hahaha. congratulations.

  • Head Jammer says:

    Thanks Cici! And three months later I can report we are still going strong!

  • scott says:

    In my more melodramatic moments, I am wont to say that my wife and I have not slept alone in our bed since 1999. People talk about the ‘ideal’ gap between siblings- do they ever consider the agony of having to train three children over a period of a DECADE to sleep on their own!!!!
    Slightly bitter, now- your post came ten years too late…

    scott’s last blog post..Yet another reason to be glad not to have been born 200 years ago

  • Head Jammer says:

    That’s a very sobering thought Scott! Its been 3 yrs and counting for us! Our baby is in a crib that opens up to our bed, but she ends up in our bed at some point during the night. We’ll see if we can get her sleeping on her own a bit earlier than we did with our first, now that we have the technique down!

  • scott says:

    Yeah, Jmaes (No 1) was easy- slept through the night- Oh, how we bragged! Hannah, (No 2) er, not so easy, kept on wandering through while we were watching tv, and then sleeping on her floor… Jonah, (No 3)- he’s impossible. You can read twenty books in a row, sing all the inane lullabys you care to think of, and he still manages to get by on the amount of sleep of a driven genius. I hope he is…

    scott’s last blog post..Yet another reason to be glad not to have been born 200 years ago

  • scott says:

    I mean, James. Wine helps. It’s not for everyone (caveat) but it helps.

    scott’s last blog post..Yet another reason to be glad not to have been born 200 years ago

  • Head Jammer says:

    Nice name choices Scott! I thought it was supposed to get easier and easier with each one, but you have proven me wrong! Am now curious how our second one will be when she gets a bit older. If it is any worse than our first, I will definitely need some wine!

  • paula says:

    I’ve watched the show and seen this method used there, very effectively. I figured we would end up using it on our little guy, but we lucked out (trying not to brag) – he’s a fantastic sleeper. What really amazes me is the nights when he might just lie there for up to an hour, singing and talking to himself before falling asleep. We have always closed the door with a very not-bright nightlight (more to protect our shins during middle of the night peek-ins) and that has never been a problem for him, until earlier this week when he was quite sick with a stomach bug. Then he asked to have the door left open and I obliged, under the circumstances. Now that he’s feeling better, it’s back to a closed door again. I don’t know how much our attachment parenting contributed to this easy process, or if he’s just an easy-going kid, but it’s pretty cool. I often wonder what the next one will be like. Good to know the method really does work, if needed in the future!

    paula’s last blog post..Now I know my A-B-Cs …

  • Head Jammer says:

    @Paula – that is great to hear that your little guy manages so well with falling asleep on his own, I hope your next one will be the same! But yes, if not, you can definitely try this method. I think our son just really got used to having us lying beside him as he fell asleep, and it was difficult to get him un-used to it. He still is fine with falling asleep on his own now, but I must confess, there are still times when we fall asleep beside him while putting him to bed (just cuz we’re so tired), but those times haven’t resulted in any setbacks, and we enjoy those times too.

  • Mocha Dad says:

    Congratulations.

    Mocha Dad’s last blog post..Wednesday Wisdom: The Greatest Gift

  • Head Jammer says:

    Thanks Mocha Dad!

  • Fussy Baby says:

    Hi! I found your site tonight when I was searching for something on the Period of Purple Crying program, but then happened to see this post. THANK YOU!! Our son (2.5) needs us to lie with him to fall asleep (he did it himself for 1 year), but then after my ahem…’dear’ husband TAUGHT him how to climb out of the crib, his sleeping went downhill. We are thinking it’s time to get him to fall asleep on his own (again). Thanks for the encouragement and hope that it may actually happen someday!

  • Head Jammer says:

    @ Fussy Baby – no problem! You can definitely do it… if we did, anyone can! Good luck, you’ll get there!

  • Cart4Family says:

    Wow. Great job! I remember doing the same method for my niece. Quite hard but it could give us satisfaction!

  • Head Jammer says:

    Thanks Cart4Family, yes, it was hard, and took awhile, but was definitely worth the effort. He sleeps better at night now and also is fine falling asleep on his own, which is helpful when you have to put a baby to bed at the same time!

  • Chris says:

    Congrats on the accomplishment, I’ll have to remember this one when my little one grows up a bit (due in 2 weeks!)

    Must be a relief that he is sleeping better, I’m sure you’re sleeping a little better now too.
    Chris´s last blog ..How to Choose a Stroller My ComLuv Profile

  • Head Jammer says:

    Hey Chris, thanks for you comment and congrats to you! And yes, since we did this, it has been a big relief and has meant better sleep for us too. He is much more confident going to bed now and is totally fine and knows that we are there for him if he needs us, so it is great. With a second child, this was pretty much a must for us.

  • Maureen says:

    Hi, stumble on your blog when I was googling up bedtime books for toddler when I saw this entry. Congrats for you and your son for doing this! My son will be 3 years old this December and he still needs me to lay down with him and only me, Daddy isn’t even allowed inside his room (I blame the one year Daddy spent working in China LOL). Thanks for sharing this. Will have to look up that book.
    Maureen´s last blog ..I ♥ Faces ~ Completely Candid My ComLuv Profile

  • Head Jammer says:

    Hi Maureen, thanks for your comment! The main reason we did this was because we knew we had a second one on the way, and if one of us wasn’t around at bedtime it would have been impossible for us to put both kids to bed successfully. So this has worked out really well, and we are so glad it worked. It has been quite a while now since we accomplished the mission, and all is still well :)

  • paula says:

    Maybe I jinxed it with my earlier comment about how our son has always been such a fantastic sleeper, but we suddenly started having the most horrific bedtime experiences we could imagine. I’ve blogged about it. Thankfully, after only a few weeks of torture, we’re back to “normal” again. At least … for today!

  • Head Jammer says:

    Hi Paula, great to hear things are back to “normal” again! I guess you never know with kids… things can change at the blink of an eye and for reasons that remain a mystery!

  • Bethany says:

    Thank you for your detailed saga! I have been fed up with “crying it out.” I haven’t had a relaxing evening putting my child to bed in quite some time–and he wakes up in the middle of the night. I cave and bring him into bed with me. Now I’m ready to go after reading all of this. I completed night 1 tonight, and it was pretty relaxing and peaceful! I know they all won’t be like that, but I’m very excited. Today is the first day my child is sleeping in his big boy bed in his new room, so it was the perfect time to change the routine. Very relieved, and I appreciate your story so much! Thanks!

  • Head Jammer says:

    That is great news Bethany!! Thanks for sharing, and I wish you all the best of luck with it. It can be rough at times, but I am sure you will get through it successfully.

  • Bethany says:

    Ha ha, I spoke too soon. So, I have one question for you. What did you two do when your toddler woke up in the middle of the night? Last night, I said “It’s time for sleep” and sat down on the floor like the night routine. It took 2 hrs for him to fall back asleep. Just curious if you had a better plan that worked for you. I’m battling the fact that I used to just bring him to bed when he’d wake up at night. Thanks!

  • Head Jammer says:

    Hi Bethany, no problem, that is normal… actually what I found is that he woke up less during the night when he was able to fall asleep on his own, or after awhile he was able to just fall back asleep on his own without us coming to him. But of course there were times when we did have to go to him. Sometimes I tried to stay with him by his bed until he fell back asleep again, but I found that was too exhausting and sleep depriving. So mostly I brought him to our bed. I didn’t find that it had any negative impact on his ability to fall asleep on his own the next night, it was mostly fine. Hope that helps!!

  • Bethany says:

    Just wanted to give an update. I can now put my son to bed for nap or bedtime after books and songs, say I love you, and shut the door. He falls asleep completely on his own. Thank you so much for your detailed description of what you did. It definitely helped me along the way with setbacks and all. Now I’m ready for baby #2 to come (due date was yesterday) because my first child can sleep on his own. This will make everything so much easier than it would have been! Thank you thank you!

  • Head Jammer says:

    that’s awesome Bethany, I’m so happy to hear that! It will make things easier when your second baby arrives for sure! Glad it worked out for you, and I’m really happy that this series helped you. Best of luck with Baby #2!! :)

  • Jasanna says:

    Awesome!! I have friends who would love to try this method!!

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/soliloquyshoppe
    Jasanna´s last blog ..Handmade Wedding Dress Portrait by Soliloquy My ComLuv Profile

  • Julie says:

    Congrats!

    We are 2 weeks in the process and my DD screams and cries still. She wakes up once or twice and screams and cries until one of us comes back. It’s hard because we have a 9 mo old that sleeps in the same room with the 22 mo old and we don’t want her to wake up.

  • Head Jammer says:

    Thanks for your comment Julie! I understand… we went through the same at times when we were going through this process. We had to go back in the room and sit beside the bed until he fell asleep again. It will get better though… we found that as we went through the process, he woke up at night less and less and didn’t need us to come into the room anymore to fall back asleep (because he was getting better at falling asleep on his own). Best of luck!

  • Carissa says:

    I had my son dec of 2009, every since he was like 3 weeks old he sleep perfect threw the night. as soon as I’d lay him down he’d instantly fall asleep, i took him on the pacifier at 4 months, he continued to sleep threw the night(always in his own room, in his own crib) at 9 months I took him off the bottle, he still slept all threw the night. But since he’s been about 10months or so, he doesnt go to sleep without a fight, and he screams top of his lungs for hours and hours..it’s exhausting. I’m deff going to try this for him! I certainly hope it works for us!

  • Carissa says:

    I forgot to mention, he moved to a toddler bed about 3 weeks ago.
    he sleeps all night, it’s just the inital getting him to fall asleep is the hard part. but once hes asleep he stays in bed till the morning then plays quietly until I wake up :)

  • Head Jammer says:

    Thanks for your comment Carissa! That is interesting! Good that you managed so well for the first 9 months! I hope this method works for you!
    What is also interesting is that with our second child, we had learned our lesson and didn’t stay in bed with her when she was falling asleep, and she is great at falling asleep on her own.

  • MommySalazar says:

    wow! this was exactly what I was looking for from start to finish. I laying next to my son’s bed as i’m reading this & wanting to jump for joy that my prayer has been answered! I started this 2 nights ago & my son already falls asleep on his own without any protest. My question to you is, did you stay sleeping there all night or would you leave his room after he fell asleep. I have been staying. If you stayed, did you do the same for naps? Thank you so much for posting!!

  • Head Jammer says:

    Hi MommySalazar, that is great to hear! I am glad it is working for you and that my posts here helped you. To answer your question, after he fell asleep we left the room. I found he didn’t wake up during the night as much once he was able to fall asleep on his own, or, if he woke up, he was able to fall asleep again without having us there. We didn’t do the same for naps… I think once we started this he wasn’t napping anymore already. Cheers!

  • MommySalazar says:

    thank u for responding. well 5 nights in, I now am starting to get some protest. tonight as I was finishing our bedtime book he jumped up to hug me. I was still able to put him down without that much of a fight but I can tell he was real upset…but he took it like a man lol. suprisingly he doesn’t get off the bed. He stays there & then he starts tossing & turning till falls asleep.
    Its takes him about an hr to fall asleep at night & 10 min for naps.
    Hopefully the nights starting catching up to the naps. Thanks again!

  • Head Jammer says:

    Hi Mommy Salazar, thanks for the update! We had a few setbacks and protests along the way too… I think it is normal. You probably read the whole series on our “Mission” so you have read what we went through. Keep persevering and you will get there for sure!!

  • sonia caran says:

    Your blogs were truly a godsend that ive sent your praises on the huggies website for other parents who like me were having the worst time getting their child to sleep.Your wonderful.

  • Head Jammer says:

    Hi Sonia, thank you so much, that is very kind of you! Glad that it helped :-)

  • 1stTimeMama says:

    I stumbled upon your blog while trying to find tips on how to get my squirmy 15 month old to let me cut his nails… Your informative/insightful/funny articles about getting your toddler to fall asleep on his own seemed to have found me at the perfect time. Last week, when I got home at 8:30 PM, my exhausted/frustrated husband met me at the door with, “We HAVE to do sleep training. He JUST fell asleep.” Bedtime is usually around 7 or 7:30 at the latest. The Sleepeasy Solution DVD has been in our nightstand since May when a friend said it worked great for her. I haven’t been brave enough to even watch it because my little guy who is in day care always seems to have sniffles or new teeth trying to break through. We used to rock him to sleep. Around 12 months, the only way he falls asleep is in the queen sized guest bed in his room with one of us by his side. After he falls asleep, we transfer him to his crib and half the time he sleeps through the night. Sometimes he wakes and cries/complains a bit. As long as it’s not tragic crying, he usually goes back to sleep on his own. The method you used really appeals to me since your guy seemed to like falling asleep with you nearby also. We don’t pat our son’s back and sometimes he’s on the other side of the bed when he falls asleep, he just seems to like knowing we’re right there. I also like that your method involved minimal crying. For the most part, we get enough sleep to function the majority of days so I really don’t want to subject my baby to crying it out. I’m hoping there’s a way to get our son to sleep even more and avoid nights like the one last week… I have a few questions I’m hoping you would address. Is this method recommended for kids younger than your 2 and a half year old? Would it work with a crib or should we wait for a toddler bed or configure his room another way? We’re thinking about moving the guest bed out of his room or I had read in The No Cry Sleep Solution about putting the mattress on the floor since he’s walking but hasn’t figured out a safer method for getting off the bed than just stepping off the edge. It sounds like 2 and a half years later, you’re still experiencing success? It gives me hope that all these other parents were/are struggling with sleep training also and have found your method works! Sorry to be so long winded – Thank you advance for your time and contributions!

  • Head Jammer says:

    Hi 1stTimeMama,
    While I haven’t tried this method with children younger than 2.5 yrs, I can say with my daughter we managed to get her to fall asleep on her own with no cuddling. I guess we took a somewhat similar approach with her, although it wasn’t as dramatic because she wasn’t as used to the cuddling as our son was, since she was younger. It worked well and she was able to fall asleep on her own from an earlier age. Both children to this day are still able to fall asleep on their own very well. So, I think it would work with a crib as well and I would try it. I think as long as they feel your presence in the room it helps, whether they are in a bed or a crib.
    I am glad to get the feedback that so many parents have found this useful and helpful! Please let us know how it goes for you!

  • angela808 says:

    oh this is awesome! let’s see if this will work for my nephew who tend to sleep in our place every weekend.
    angela808´s last blog ..Get Tide Detergent Coupons!My ComLuv Profile

  • Head Jammer says:

    Hi Angela, sure, give it a try… if you only see him every weekend though, I’m not sure if it will work, as I think it needs to be done every night, but you can still try!

  • Micheleack says:

    I was wondering what you did if he woke up in the middle of the night. Did you repeat the same process? We have a 21 month old who won’t go in a crib anymore so he is now sleeping on a full mattress on the floor. He won’t go to sleep on his own and he wakes up every night and is up from between 1 1/2 – 3 hours every night. We are all sleep deprived and desperate. Do you think once he is putting himself to sleep at the beginning of the night, this will help when he wakes in the middle of the night?
    Thank you so much!
    Michele

  • Head Jammer says:

    Hi Michele, in our case, when we started doing this, we found that our son woke up less during the night, and, when he did wake up, he was able to fall asleep on his own. If there was a time that he did not fall back asleep right away, I went into the room and sat by the bed in the same spot where I sat when putting him to bed, until he fell asleep again. But usually it did not take him long to fall back asleep again. So yes, I definitely think in most cases if they are able to fall asleep by themselves at night it will help them to wake up less often during the night and fall back asleep more easily if they wake up during the night. Good luck!!

  • Lucy says:

    i have been trying to search on how to put a baby to sleep fast, and then i found your post. i think you did a great job and you inspire us all! congrats!
    Lucy´s last blog ..Opening a Checking Account on ChexsystemsMy ComLuv Profile

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