My son has co-slept with me since he was born. When he was about 18 months old, I bought him his own bed with the plan to move him into it so I could have my bed to myself. I tried getting him to stay there, but I could never make it work. We had gotten into a routine where he would wake up sometime in the night and come into my bed, and we would sleep together until the morning. That was working for both of us most of the time. It would become an issue though when I was sick or if one of us was experiencing some insomnia. Any attempt to get him to sleep in his own bed at these times just ended in disaster!
My son is nearly four now, and after another night of sickness, with him feeling too scared to be in his bed by himself, I thought it was time we dealt with the issue properly. I decided to tackle it as an emotional project. It wasn’t that I minded my son in my bed. The issue for me was that he was scared to sleep by himself and I didn’t want him to feel that way.
I started by taking it to my listening time. I would talk to my listening partner about all of my fears. I was scared he was going to feel all alone, and that I was abandoning him by leaving him in his bedroom all by himself. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to listen to his cries in the night. I was worried that it wouldn’t work and I’d have another attempt at this and fail. I enjoyed having him in my bed most of the time – I’d miss him being there. I’d be all alone in bed. I stomped and raved and cried about my fears. I gave myself time and preparation. I would talk through the process I was going to use, I would talk about all the things that could go wrong and what I could do if that happened. I kept talking about it until I knew that my son was going to be completely safe and happy in his bed. That I wasn’t abandoning him and he wasn’t all alone. I was still with him, only a call out away if anything came up for him.
The first night I was going to start working on the issue with him, I made sure he was really tired. We started off with a big session of wrestling before bed. We played our favourite wrestling game. This involves covering his bed in pillows, making sure there are enough around the walls to avoid head banging, and then I stand at the end of the bed and he runs up to me and pushes against my hands with his hands and then he flies back onto the pillows. Then we both turn around and we use our bottoms to bop him onto the bed and then I fall on top of him. This gets him laughing a lot and we do it over and over again.
Then as I was lying with him as he was going to sleep I told him that he wasn’t going to be sleeping in my bed anymore. I let him know that I was going to help him stay in his bed, so when he woke in the night I would help him go back to sleep in his bed. He started to cry. He wanted to sleep with me, he didn’t want to be by himself. I listened to him and told him how much I loved him and how safe he was here.
Later in the night he woke up and came into my room. I was sleeping lightly and quickly got up and met him at my doorway. “I’m sorry honey, you’re going to sleep in your bed tonight, no more sleeping in mummy’s bed. I’m going to help you back to your bed.” I stood there with him as he cried and cried. He told me he wanted to sleep with me. He didn’t want to be in his bed by himself. He would reach out towards my bed, seeing it, but not being able to touch it or get into it. That would make him cry some more. I held the limit with him and listened. As his cry subsided, I held his hand and walked him back into his room and into his bed. He had a little bit more crying to do, but didn’t easily go back to sleep.
As I went to leave the room, he would start crying again. I would keep my position and talk to him, telling him I was just here and I was listening. When his cry subsided, I would walk back to him and give him a big kiss and cuddle and tell him I was going to go to bed again. As I left the room he would begin to whine a little and I stayed where I was and told him I was just here and he was safe in his bed. The last time I left, I had gotten back into my bed when he called out again. I stayed in my bed (as it’s just across the hallway) and I called back out to him and told him that I loved him. He then slept until the morning.
The next night we did the same thing – big fun wrestling before bed, and when he woke in the night and came in, I met him at the end of my bed and held him as he cried for a short time about wanting to come into my bed. I walked him back to bed and I left the room as he was going back to sleep. He called out to me when I was in bed and I called back.
This happened for two more nights, and each time the cry was shorter, or not at all, and he stopped calling out to me when I left the room. Then he slept all the way through in his own bed. I couldn’t believe it! It was nowhere near as challenging or as painful and I had anticipated it to be. All of the listening time I had used had cleared out any of my fears getting in the way and he just had his to work through.
I made sure we had regular Special Time each day during that week so that he could feel my loving presence and get to be the one setting the rules. We also did lots of other playing and adventures that he chose and enjoyed.
Since we have worked through this issue, my son has been able to spend a night in my bed and then the next night in his and not have any issue with it. He is generally happy to be sleeping in his own bed all night (although sometimes he tells me he wants to sleep with me) and he doesn’t get up in the night to come into me. He wakes in the night and is able to go back to sleep by himself now, something he has never been able to do before. Then, four weeks on, he decided that he no longer wanted to wear nappies (diapers) to bed. He has successfully transferred to undies without any bed wetting. This is something I would have been more reluctant to do if he were still sleeping in my bed.