But don’t worry, this is completely normal. So once your child sleeps through the night, unfortunately, it generally doesn’t mean they will sleep through the night every night. Waking up during the night is a normal part of the sleep cycle, but good sleepers know how to fall back to sleep without your help.
Our eldest started coming into our room when she was 3 and needed me to sit with her to fall back to sleep. It was exhausting. We ended up seeing a doctor who pointed out that, what she has when she falls asleep at bedtime (me), can be what she needs to fall back to sleep when she wakes during the night (me!).
So, here are my tips on helping your child stay put and sleep through the night.
Ensure their room is exactly how it will be when they wake during the night
When you put your child to bed, leave the room exactly as it will be in the middle of the night. If you plan to turn off the hall light when you go to sleep, try turning it off when you put your child to bed instead. Soft music or white noise is ok, as long as it plays all night.
And whatever bedtime routine you follow, it's important you leave the room before your child falls asleep so they don’t wake up wondering why you're no longer there.
Talk to your child about staying in their own bed.
If they are constantly coming into your room throughout the night, then they may see their own bed as a temporary sleep space. This can mean they don’t sleep well and when they wake, they can’t settle themselves back to sleep. If you don’t sleep well with a little monkey in your bed, then you need to reclaim your bed and help make them realise that their bed is where they should be, all night long. Explain this to them, kids take in so much more than we realise.
It’s easier to have the conversation about where your child is sleeping, during the day or before bed time rather than in the middle of the night when their determination to get into your bed is stronger than your determination to have them sleep in their own bed!
Learning to stay in your own bed is hard work so it’s ok to offer rewards when they make a good go at it. My youngest is a sucker for stickers. Even having an injection is ok because she gets a sticker at the end of it. So think about what motivates your child, is it stickers, their favourite food, colouring books? Draw up a reward chart and if they get 3 stars, offer a reward to them if they make whatever progress you think is good. It doesn’t have to be sleeping all night in their own bed but if they make less of a fuss going back to their own bed or they’re up less throughout the night, then reward them.
Develop a plan and stick with it. At 2 am it's easy to get worn down by your child's pleas, but if they manage to wiggle their way in, even once or twice a week, they’re bound to keep trying.
So, every time they come in, haul yourself out of bed, lead them back to their room, give them a quick kiss and cuddle, and leave. Be prepared to repeat this routine over and over if necessary. If you’re consistent, it shouldn’t take too many nights before they stop coming into your room.
If your child is sick or has a bad dream, you may decide it's okay to bend the rules. But it will be less of a setback if you are able to sleep in their bedroom rather than allowing them into your bed (I have slept head to toe in a single bed (and actually even in a cot (squished)), many a night!).
Just remember, this may be a long, hard process. Success won't come overnight, so be patient.