July 02, 2015

Q: My daughter is 1 years- old and I am just about to pop (another girl). I put my 1 year-old to sleep by lying down with her in our bed and then once she falls asleep, put her in her bed. However, should I start making my daughter go to sleep by herself in her bed? And if so, how would I go about doing that when it drives me crazy to hear her cry?

A: Ideally we would make our children sleep in their own cribs and later in their own beds from the very first days of life. If you have made it to 1 year and she still falls asleep with you this can be a very hard habit to break. If you are about to deliver a sibling there may not be time to establish a different routine before the new baby is born. Children generally regress with the arrival of a sibling.

A good first step may be to transition her to someone other than you putting her to bed so that person can be consistent when the new baby comes. When you are ready, start by putting her in her own room and remain at her side until she falls asleep. Once she had been successful falling asleep in her own bed with you by her side for a few nights, start sitting a little farther away from the bed until she falls asleep. Be ready to reassure her that you are still there but not going to get into the bed with her.

This may take several days to a week of persistent encouragement and placing her back into the bed when she gets up.  Once she becomes accustomed to that step, keep moving your chair further and further away until you are out of the room. Keep in mind that this may take weeks to a month and that persistence is the key to success in changing behavior in a child. Little steps over time should limit the amount of crying but for most children some crying happens before habits change.

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Answered by Dr. Carrie M. Brown