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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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