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January 30, 2007

Three's Company

James Mehring

It was a long held rule between Lyn and I that our daughter would not end up sleeping in bed with us. Through cautionary tales from other parents and direct observation we realize how difficult it can be to keep a child out of the parents’ bed once the pattern is set. Just this week a friend told me she knows a family where the 5 and 7 year old children still sleep with their parents. I am guessing that isn’t the best situation for the parents or the kids, although reduces the chances of more attention-stealing siblings.

But I must confess that from time to time our daughter has ended up in our bed. It started after moving into our new home in November. Before moving, our daughter had a long stretch of sleeping through the night. Perhaps it was the new surroundings or the emergence of her first tooth. Whatever the reason, our daughter started to wake up in the middle of the night pretty often. And while she isn’t getting up as often now, it still happens a couple times each week.

Lyn gets up before 5 a.m. while I often stay up at night to do homework. Either way we aren't getting enough sleep. When our daughter fills the house with her blood curdling scream at 2 a.m. we are looking for the fastest way to get back to bed. We’ve tried to ignore her. Holding our daughter until she falls asleep doesn’t work because she starts wailing as soon as she is put back in her crib. Lying with our daughter on her bedroom floor worked only marginally better. The problem is that I nod off before my daughter.

We haven’t diagnosed the cause either. It’s not a wet diaper. She isn’t starving. There has been no sign of more teeth (I want to know the record for world’s latest second tooth).

The most effective thing is letting our daughter come to bed with us. It really hurts to do it. Besides feeling guilty the next morning, I often get a good headbutt or slap to the face as she tosses and turns while settling in.

If Lyn or I wake up again we do a pretty good job of putting our daughter back in the crib. Amazingly, she will sleep through what's left of the night. But that doesn’t seem like the real solution. Besides, we shouldn’t be carrying our daughter around while being so dazed and confused. So what’s the best thing to do? Are we just being lazy? Should we just go to bed at 7 p.m. so that we can hold her all night if she wakes? Groggy minds want to know.

05:56 PM

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James:

You say you tried to ignore her, but the big question is, for how long? If you haven't figured it out by now, that smart little girl of yours is manipulating you. She knows if she just screams loud and long enough, you'll blink first and she'll end up in the comfort of your bed.

This may sound heartless, but it's not. When she starts screaming, walk into the room, check that there's nothing wrong, then say to her, "Sweetheart, it's bedtime. Mommy and Daddy are going back to sleep now. You have to go to sleep, too."

Of course, she won't listen. So let her scream 20 minutes, then go back and say it again. Whatever you do, don't pick her up or bring her with you. The next time wait 30 minutes between visits.

You might have to endure a night or two of little sleep, but guaranteed, once she realizes all her screaming isn't getting her anywhere, she'll give up and start sleeping through the night again.

Posted by: Amy at January 31, 2007 10:42 AM

Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do, only you know what works best.

There are a blue million opinions about it, but, if it takes her being in the bed with you for a while, then do it, nothing to feel guilty about, though it does get uncomfortable, sometimes!

We just keep/kept returning them to their own beds, and, they got it, eventually. Sometimes, it's just a phase.

Posted by: Elizabeth at January 31, 2007 12:06 PM

I agree with the first commenter. She knows what she wants and how to get it. It is your job to teach her how to sleep on her own. Now, if you don't want to do it yet -- if you aren't ready -- then by all means keep her with you. But if you are ready for her to be on her own, you need to teach her how to do it.

As with so much we have to teach our kids, it is often much easier on us to give in. But they need to learn eventually...

Good luck!

Posted by: Megan at February 1, 2007 09:27 AM


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