How to Get a Toddler to Sleep Alone

Опубликовал Admin
15-10-2020, 09:00
Having your toddler sleep alone is a big step toward their independence from you. When preparing your toddler, explain to them that they will be sleeping alone. Make bedtime consistent and predictable, allowing your toddler to have choices throughout the process. Respond consistently and let your toddler know that you mean it when you tell them to stay in bed. Help your child cope with fears and find ways to be creative in helping your child succeed with sleeping on their own.

Preparing Your Child for Sleeping Alone

  1. Talk to your child about sleeping alone. Instead of making the switch suddenly, it is important to prepare the toddler well in advance. This can be done by talking to the toddler about changing where they will be sleeping and what it will be like to sleep alone.
    • For example, say, “We feel like you’re ready for your big kid bed. Getting your big kid bed means that we feel like you’re ready to sleep all by yourself. We’ll say goodnight and be with you at bedtime, and then you’ll be in your very own bed and go to sleep on your own.”
    • Do not mention how much you will miss having your child in your room at night because this may confuse them.
  2. Set a regular bedtime. Many toddlers do best when they go to bed around 6:30-8:00 pm. If your child doesn’t already have a set bedtime, start implementing one. Once you set a consistent bedtime, your toddler will begin to naturally slow down and get ready to sleep.
    • A later bedtime means that your toddler may become over-tired and their stress hormones may keep them up.
  3. Make a pre-bedtime routine for your child. Most bedtime routines consist of a sequence of events that are predictable and calming to a child. Along with getting dressed for bed, the toddler’s bedtime routine can include things like brushing teeth, a diaper change or using the toilet, getting a small sip of water, and a calm bedtime story. Your bedtime routine doesn’t have to take over your night; stick to a fifteen or twenty-minute routine.
    • If your child wants to push the limits, use a clock or a timer to keep things on track. For example, say, “I know you want another story, so we will read until the alarm goes off and then it’s time for bed.”
    • If your child relaxes with a bath, consider giving them a bath before bedtime and including it as part of the routine.
  4. Give your child choices throughout their bedtime routine. Allow your child to pick out their pajamas, choose what book they want to read, and pick what song they want to hear. If they sleep with a stuffed animal, let them choose that, too. Giving your child choices will help them feel empowered and more in control.
  5. Make their room fun and enjoyable. Making the toddler’s new sleeping space more personal is another way to get them more enthusiastic about sleeping in a different room. They should feel excited about their room and have a sense of ownership in the process. Being excited about their room and their bed can make them less afraid to sleep alone.
    • Give your toddler the task of picking out the sheets and blankets for their new bed. Giving the toddler this responsibility will help them feel more excited and grown-up.

Putting Your Child to Sleep Alone

  1. Help them relax before bedtime. If your child doesn’t want to fall asleep or has trouble winding down before bedtime, try a relaxing routine to help them calm down. Read stories together, sing songs, have some bedtime snuggles, or give your child a bath. These activities can help them learn to relax and fall asleep calmly and without a fight.
  2. Reassure your child that you will be nearby. Once bedtime comes, let your child know that you're not far away. Some children may need reassurance to cope with their sadness or fears. Knowing that you are nearby can help your child settle down and fall asleep.
    • For example, say, “I’ll be just down the hall. You need to stay in bed once I leave.”
  3. Check on your child regularly. Instead of responding to each call, yell, or wail, start by checking on your child regularly on a set schedule. This will help your child feel reassured without having to call out for you. Over time, they will learn to self-soothe and not need your reassurance.
    • Go in every five minutes to check on them, then increase the time to seven and ten minutes.
  4. Comfort your child if they cry. When you transition your child to sleeping alone, they will likely feel fearful at first. Crying in your presence can still help them feel reassured, which is different than “crying it out.”
    • If your child is hysterical, recognize that this won’t help them sleep. They might need a more gradual process. Hold your child and help them calm down if they become hysterical.
  5. Place your child back in bed if they escape. If your child gets out of bed, pick them up and put them back into bed. You don’t need to scold your child or lecture them, just simply say, “It’s time for bed” and put them back into their room.
    • Toddlers enjoy testing boundaries, so be firm and consistent in putting them back to bed without making a production of the event.
  6. Show your pride when they do well. If your toddler makes gains in sleeping alone, beam with pride and let them know how courageous they are. Tell your child how grown-up they are becoming and how proud you are of them. Make a big deal in front of your toddler and show how happy you are that they are doing well.
    • Reward attempts even if they don’t fully succeed, as this will encourage them to keep trying. Use a sticker chart or small rewards to keep your child motivated. Give your child a small treat, like their favorite cereal in the morning.

Helping Your Child Cope with Fear

  1. Get your child to laugh. Having a little fun before bed can help your child feel more relaxed and secure. Play a funny game, have a gentle pillow fight, or tickle your child a little before you put them down for the night. These activities can help you bond with your child, and help them associate bedtime with a feeling of joy and safety.
  2. Give your child comforting objects to sleep with. Losing the security of having a parent close by can be scary for a child. Give your child other soothing objects such as a blanket, stuffed animal, or doll. These objects can help your child feel safe and reassured when they fall asleep or wake up in the night.
    • If your child is scared of monsters, fill a spray bottle with water and call it “Monster Spray.” Whenever your child is scared, tell them to spray the monsters away.
  3. Soothe your child when they have bad dreams. Toddlers are often afraid of monsters under their bed or having nightmares. Let your child know they are safe. If your toddler wakes up from a nightmare, avoid saying it wasn’t real. This can feel invalidating to a toddler because the bad dream felt real. Instead, tell them it’s over and it’s okay to go back to sleep.
  4. Add a night light to your child’s room. Many toddlers are afraid of the dark and don’t want to be alone. It can be comforting to have a small night light on when they first start to sleep alone. The night light should be put in a place where it does not shine directly on the toddler’s pillow or near your child’s head.
    • Check your child’s nightlight so that it is not creating spooky shadows instead of chasing them away.

Troubleshooting Problems

  1. Decrease touch slowly if your child co-sleeps with you. If your child co-sleeps with you, it may be a longer process to get them sleeping on their own since they are used to your physical comfort. Start by holding your child until they fall asleep. Then, place your hand on their back until the sleep. Next, be in the room but not touching them. Taking gradual steps back can help your child learn to sleep on their own.
    • Don’t get into bed with your child. Move steadily further from your child so that they learn to fall asleep on their own.
    • Give your child a stuffed animal to hold or cuddle and help them seek comfort and touch this way instead of from you.
  2. Teach new sleep habits for self-comfort. If your child became accustomed to nursing or rocking in the middle of the night, they will likely look for you when they wake for soothing and comfort. Your goal is for your child to learn to self-soothe and put themselves back to bed when they wake. Do this by placing them in their bed or crib while they are awake so that they can fall asleep on their own.
    • If you still nurse your toddler, break the association with nursing and sleeping. For example, nurse your child in the living room or a different location than their bedroom before nighttime.
  3. Give them a pass if they tend to get out of bed frequently. If your child can’t seem to stay in bed or wails for you to come to their room, give them one pass they can use each night that allows them to get up. They can come ask a question, get a hug, or grab a drink of water.
    • Whatever they do, let them know they can get up only once. For the rest of the night, they must remain in their bed.
  4. Make a bedtime snack. Some kids need a little food to hold them through the night, especially during growth spurts. Make a piece of toast or something else that’s bland and doesn’t have sugar. Give your child their snack while you read a story or have it for them in case they wake up in the middle of the night.


  • Stay positive, and be consistent with your routine.
  • Avoid punishing your child if they have trouble getting used to their new bedtime routine. This will only upset your child and make the process more difficult. Instead, reward them when they make progress, even if it’s a small step in the right direction.
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