How to get your child out of your bed

18 May 2014

Are you having trouble getting your child into a sleep routine? Sister Ann Richardson, co-author of the book Sleep Sense, offers her advice.

Establishing a good sleeping routine is key in any household. Not only does it help parents get enough shut-eye to deal with busy children, it also creates a sense of security for children if they know there’s a set routine to their days. But it’s not uncommon to struggle with getting a child into a routine, and changes such as moving from a cot to a bed or moving your child out of your room into their own could cause further upset. Sister Ann Richardson is a specialist nurse and parent coach at the Lonehill baby clinic and the co-author of Baby Sense and Sleep Sense, as well as the author of Toddler Sense. She gives some pointers on what to do when, and how to plan for sound sleeping for everyone in the house.

Sleeptime basics

It’s much easier to keep your child in a routine than it is to start a new one, so Richardson suggests starting with these basics. If you’re already experiencing problems, go through this list to rule out what could be an underlying cause for sleep problems.

  • Make sure you and your partner agree on the method of sleep training. It won’t help if the one believes in leaving children to cry themselves to sleep and the other partner is checking in every five minutes to stop the crying, for example.
  • Make sure your child is healthy before you start sleep training. A child with a blocked nose or other health problems will have difficulty sleeping regardless of a routine.
  • Low magnesium levels could cause trouble sleeping, so consider a magnesium supplement if necessary.
  • If your child has trouble calming down at night, use Rescue Remedy – a natural sedative you can add to their milk or rub some on their pulse points and feet.
  • Make sure you’ve spent enough time with your child during the day.
  • Create a sleep zone – a quiet, calm area where your child sleeps and which they understand isn’t a place for loud playing. Keep the room dim, stay away from bright colours and keep away toys that may distract them.
  • Encourage a soft toy or blanket as a sleep soother – even if the child seems bored by it, keep giving it to them. If they can get into a routine with this toy, it will later signal sleep.
  • Let your child be active during the day so they’re tired at night.
  • Stay away from stimulating toys, shows, music or excitement at night and before bedtime. Switch electronic media and the TV off at least two hours before bedtime.
  • Establish a bedtime routine such as taking a bath, brushing teeth and quiet time.

Moving from a cot to a bed

When is the right time? Richardson says you should only do this if your toddler is climbing out of their cot or waking up in the night because they don’t have enough space to sleep.

  • Let your child help to choose the new bed linen and position of bed (if appropriate). This is a good time to create a sleep zone, so consider calm colours and make sure the bed is in a quiet place – either their own room or away from busy spaces in the house.
  • Make sure the bed has a side bar and put it against a wall.
  • “Remember your child may experience some restless nights while he gets used to sleeping in a larger space, so don’t be alarmed if he wakes in the night on occasion,” says Richardson.
  • Stay firm but loving about bedtime rules.

Sleep training

  • If your child has trouble settling down despite all of the above, or if the child struggles to sleep on their own after moving from your room or the cot, apply the sleep training technique whereby you leave them for short periods of time.
  • Hold and comfort your child until they’re drowsy.
  • Always follow this pattern when you respond to complaints about sleeping space: acknowledge how they feel, mirror the feeling (“I also want you to stay with me”) and then provide a reason why it can’t happen. Name the feeling they’re displaying (for example, “I can see you are sad/angry”) and always mention yourself too – “It makes me angry when you shout.”
  • Place the child in their bed, say goodnight and leave the room. Close the door if they try to run out, but don’t feel bad about it – Richardson says it’s a lot like putting up the sides of a cot to keep your child in a safe environment.
  • Wait a while before returning to the room, then cuddle them until they’re drowsy again.
  • If they throw a tantrum, leave the room immediately. Alternatively, when they’re drowsy, say goodnight and leave the room.
  • Repeat the process until they fall asleep.
  • Ignore gagging, vomiting and tantrums – only return to comfort them when you’ve given them time to calm down.
  • Always be consistent and firm.

The above information was provided by Sister Ann Richardson from the Toddler Sense seminars. For more information about the seminars and books, go to

-Dalena Theron

Find Love!