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Co-Sleeping with a Toddler
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Co-sleeping > Co-Sleeping with a Toddler
We co-sleep with our 2 year old child. Sometimes she starts
crying during the night (I'm not sure if she's fully awake) and
usually she quickly calms down and goes back to sleep if I jut
hold her in my arms. Last night this happened two or three
times, and the last time my baby actually asked me to put her in
Now, I don't mind holding her if she needs to be comforted, but
I'm not going to become a human pillow. How can I tell whether
she needs to be hugged or just wants to? Any ideas?
Boy, does that sound familiar!!! My two and a half year old
does the exact same thing. I have noticed a pattern that if I
hold my daughter during the night in even the slightest way
(even just letting her hold my finger) she becomes completely
dependant on it to get herself back to sleep. She sleeps very
pourly during these times, and so do I. To break the habit, I
let her work it out herself. She cries for a few minutes (feels
like forever). But I am right next to her, I quietly offer a
sip of water or a tissue for her to dry her own tears. Usually,
after one, maybe two nights of this, she is back to sleeping
without her mommy pillow. The discipline is entirely on my
side. She does just fine if I don't intercede, unless of course
there is something truly wrong such as a nightmare or pain etc.
Having your child wanting you to hold them is truly sweet! At
2 years they are still finding ways to comfort themselves on
their own but they also need to have a sense that you are
there for them. It is all about building that trust. As a fellow
co-sleeper with a 2 year old I would suggest explaining to
your child (in the daytime hours) that you love that they want
to hug you at night but they can also cuddle with a teddy
bear.... or other fav toy (ideally something soft!).
My daughter (19 months) wished just the same thing as you
describe recently. She would want to sleep on my chest or at
least in my armpit, and one early morning she even made herself
comfortable right across my neck. Cuddling wasn't enough,
she kept climbing on top of me.
I would accept her sleeping in my armpit (not the other
positions) for parts of the night. I would have liked to sleep on
my belly, but I prefered to get back to sleep as quickly as
possible to trying to convince her to keep a distance. I too,
sometimes, like to sleep in my partner's armpit, so I can
understand her preference.
It lasted a few nights, then happened less often, and now she
sleeps really calm again, with less interruptions than before,
and in some distance to me. I guess she wanted to do that for a
while because she otherwise couldn't sleep well for one reason or
another. Let it be her cold, teething, and/or nightmares.
Or it was related to some move towards independence, which is
often preluded by a period of increased clingyness.
That's no prediction for you and your child, but some
encouragement that ''negotiating'' some compromise with her
doesn't mean you have to put up with weird night for long.
In the long run, if it persists, you can start pushing your child
towards more convenient solutions for you rather than letting it
become routine. I would try talking to her about it, explaining
slowly and in a few very simple words why you want her to sleep
next to you rather than in your arms. That worked surprisingly
well with my (even younger) daughter with similar wishes.
My nearly one year old is on the verge of crawling. We sleep
in a family bed, and he has recently started waking in the
middle of the night and ''crawling'' and moving all over the
bed for about an hour or so. For those of you who co-sleep
what did you do about moving babies? Also, does anyone
have advice on how to do away with these 4 am wake ups
that last an hour or more. Thank you!!!
sleepless mom and dad in Oakland
We had the same problem. When my son was almost a
year he would wake up as much as four times a night to
'play' or nurse. We loved the idea of having him in our bed
with us, we thought he would miss us terribly if we put him
in his crib, but at about a year we couldn't take the sleepless
On his first birthday we started putting him in his crib to
sleep. The first week was awful. We took turns sleeping on
his floor so we'd be there when he woke up. Then he just
stopped waking up at night. Now he asks for his crib at
I think that a lot of times we woke him up when he slept with
us. I don't know that this is the solution for you, but it worked
for our family. We had a second baby and she started out in
her crib and has been sleeping in her crib for 10-11 hours
per night since she was three weeks old.
We put a queen size futon on the floor and did not have to worry
about the baby moving around. This has worked successfully with
Note: We have a large bedroom which could accomodate both the
queen bed (where my husband prefers to sleep) and the futon.
We also co-sleep with our son. At crawling age we made a small
change in our arrangement for a number of reasons. First, he
moved around too much, sometimes kicking us in the ribs. Also,
we wanted to phase out of night time nursing and if he was
sleeping next to me, I felt that he would think of nursing if
he woke up (and would let me know by climing on my head). So we
moved our matress on to the floor and made a separate bed for our
son right next to our matress. We surrounded his mat with
bolsters so that if he rolled around, he wouldn't go too far.
After he started walking he got up and walked down the hall at
night a couple of times. I'm considering replacing his mat with
an old fasioned play pen with wooden bars. Having him next to us
makes it easy to comfort him at night and to bring him into bed
with us in the morning, but the extra space between us has us all
sleeping a little better, I think.
We co-slept with my son until he was 6 months old. At that
point he was constantly waking up early (4:45/5ish) and wanting
to play. I was very much into the ''ideal'' of co-sleeping and
everybody (parents, husband, friends) were urging me to at least
try to crib where my son took his naps. Finally in a wave of
sleep-deprivation and misery we started moving our son into the
crib after his middle of the night feeding so he ''woke-up''
mornings in the crib. It worked EXTREMELY well and he starting
sleeping until 6, 6:30 a couple of times even 7. I think when
he couldn't see us immediately, it lessened the incentives to
get up and play at that point. Unfortunately thought, despite
my love of having him close, I believe he honestly preferred the
crib better. He started waking up earlier and earlier at night
and easily going back to sleep in his crib. Finally I just gave
up and put him down there and he started sleeping his longest
stretches since 4months old (when he stopped sleeping through
the night after a month of doing it). He routinely sleeps 9-10
hours in the crib, wakes for a feeding and sleeps 2-3 more
hours. Although I miss him in bed, I am happier with more sleep
and so is he. I learned that just as some parents are happier
with co-sleeping, I believe some infants, namely my son, was
happier in his own space to my disappointment. A few moms in my
moms group have also found this. Also this was done without
crying or ''sleep-training''. Don't know if it answers your
question but it is a perspective.
Not co-sleeping together anymore
A question to those parents whose children sleep in the family bed ... how
do you deal with a child who insists on sleeping *across* the bed (not the
length of the bed)? My daughter is 18 months and is quite adamant that
she's not ready to sleep in a separate bed ... although in the past 3
months she *has* gotten to the point where, once she goes to sleep, she can
sleep by herself for 3 hours or so while I get up and do things. (She used
to wake up the minute I got up.) So ... she's inching slowly along that
continuum from very merged to more separate. However, on the "merged"
aspect ... somewhere in the middle of the night she always turns sideways
and I wake up with either her feet or the crown of her head absolutely
wedged into my ribs. I gently reposition her and go back to sleep ...
about 4 or 5 times every night! She generally sleeps right through these
transitions, and then wiggles around so that her head is smushed into my
shoulder or arm or head, once again. Any tips?
-- Mary Carol
P.S. BTW, one of her daycare teachers, from India, says "oh in India the
babies always sleep with their mother."
Reply to Mary Carol,
Kids do turn sideways, and ours still is at 2-1/2 yrs. He has a
big bed now and thrashes all over it. Dr Wm. Sears mentions this
tendency in his books and says it drives some parents nuts. The
most commonly suggested solution is to expand the bed. Some
sort of padding (e.g. rolled-up blanket) between you and the child
I have two daughters, one of whom is a kicker, the other a cuddler. The
kicker absolutely had to sleep in the perpendicular position. I really
didn't mind, but hubby claimed there was no way he could get a good night's
sleep with a kid in the bed after a while, either kicker or cuddler. So,
despite the customs of India, our kids simply had to sleep separately in
order to preserve the health and welfare of the parents. I found that
putting a futon on the floor near the bed and letting the child sleep in
the futon was a good strategy. Eventually, I would tell them that they
had to fall asleep in their own bed, but could come in to the futon after a
while if they wanted. They did that about half the time. Now, at 5 and 7,
about every third day one of them crawls in with me in the early morning
and I love it. Having 2 probably made this all easier, because they do
like sharing a room with each other. I don't think there is a cure for
perpendicular sleeping. It probably has to do with body temperature or
temperament. The kicker, to this day, likes her "space".
I can't think of any suggestions regarding how to make it so that your
daughter stops moving to a sideways position. Mine still does that, only
occasionally, and she's 7-1/2 years old. I just gently move her back.
And, yes, she sleeps with me. It has come and gone. For 2 years she slept
in her own bed (from 2-4 years of age). Then back she came on a periodic
basis (1-2 nights/week) from 4-5 years of age. Then from 5 until present
she's with me full time. When she moved her stuffed animals from her room
into mine, I realized it would be for awhile. Experience with my now
16-year-old bears out what I've read -- somewhere around 9-11, they go off
on their own, never to return. My now 16-year-old went to her own bed full
time at age 10, moved to a downstairs bedroom to get away as she entered
puberty, and when I inquired about staying in a motel room on a trip
together, she looked at me like I was out of my mind and said, "sure"
(read, absolutely not). Maybe the only suggestion I can give you is to
hang in there until your child is a teenager -- believe me, they separate
No answer in particular to the mother who's daughter always sleeps sideways,
except to note that my son does the same. He's always been sort of a
whirlwind while sleeping whether in his own bed or mine. Now at 2.5 years,
he also insists on bringing all sort of comfort items into the bed - his
baseball mitt, catcher's mask, hat, golf club, flashlight, Curious George
books and, sometimes even a teddy bear - all at the same time. Since my
husband and I have just separated, I allow it since I believe my son needs
all the comfort he can get. I somehow manage to sleep on the edge of the bed
often with feet poking into me.
Let's see if I can explain this without pictures (^_^) The three of us
take up more room "on top" than we do "on bottom" because shoulders are
wider than feet and the baby (toddler really) takes up half a "space".
Since we have the crib set up in a side car arrangement, our bed also has
more room "on top" than "on bottom". If Elie turns a full 180 degrees, I
gently move him, but not all the way back. I simply swing his feet and
then *angle myself* to be parallel with him! If he's in the middle that
means my head goes in the crib, otherwise, his head goes in the crib.
What works better though is when we're curled up close around each other,
then he sleeps soundly and doesn't move. I usually shove a pillow behind
my sacrum and snooze away.
We usually start the night out in "mommy needs her space" mode, then move
to the cuddle mode after he wakes up to nurse.
this page was last updated: Dec 28, 2004
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