Needing a Parent’s Help to Sleep: Changing to the No Stay Option

Posted by in No-Cry Discipline, No-Cry Separation Anxiety, No-Cry Sleep

Over the last couple of weeks we have talked about why a child needs you there as well as a path to deciding if you should stay or not stay to help your child fall asleep. For those that have decided that the “no stay” option is best for their family may need a bit of extra help. Changing to the no stay option is not impossible and here is how to do it!

Lucas and Daddy

Lucas and Daddy


No-Cry Solutions for Changing to the “Don’t Stay” Option

You may decide that you really do want your child to fall asleep independently, and you don’t want to have to stay in the room every night as he falls asleep. You can achieve this goal! As with most sleep situations, there isn’t one method that works for every family. What follows is a list of gentle, practical solutions and ideas for you to consider as you put together your own plan to encourage your child to begin falling asleep without your continued presence. Choose a few and add them to your current plan for better sleep.

Weaning from the routine – I’ll be right back!

Begin the night by following your usual bedtime routine. However, once the light is off and your child is sleepy, use an excuse to get up for just a minute or two. “I have to go potty, I’ll be right back.” . . . “I need some socks, be right back.” . . . “I have to check the time – be right back.”

Return to your child in a few minutes – before he has a chance to get out of bed or to get upset. After five minutes or so, repeat the exercise. Since you continue to come back to him, he should relax while waiting for you to return – since you always do.

If you know that your child would not stay in bed if you left the room, then don’t! Get up to close a window, put socks in the hamper, adjust the blinds, do yoga stretches, or any reason that gets you up and away from your child, but still in the room, for a few minutes. After he gets used to this, move on to leaving the room for short errands.

After you have done this for a few nights, and if things are looking good, leave his side for longer periods.  Before long, I’ll be back will mean, “I’ll be back … in the morning.”

Weaning from your current routine – step by step by step

If you are currently lying with or near your child in her bed until she is sound asleep, you can use a step-by-step approach to – literally – move yourself out the door. This involves expanding the space between you as she falls asleep, and doing it over a period of time.

What’s important during this phasing process is that you also use many of the other sleep ideas you’ve picked up through this blog and The No-Cry Sleep Solution books. Tips such as using white noise and making the room dark and cozy will increase your success. By creating a comfortable routine and a relaxing sleep environment your child will adapt more easily to these changes.

As you move from phase to phase don’t make a big production out of the modification. Simply ease into it without much fanfare.

Sophia, 5 months

Sophia, 5 months

Make it clear and predictable

Once you’ve decide on how you are going to handle bedtime, communicate the news to your child. Of course, we all know that telling a toddler or preschooler something one time can be about as effective as not telling at all! The key then, is to find a way to explain to your child what exactly you’ll be doing and to remind him nightly of the plan.

You can explain your bedtime routine each night to your child, one or two steps at a time. Begin before the first step, and let your little one know what’s happening at each point, giving forewarning before each major item. The preparation in advance is important since it allows your child to anticipate what’s next, and to prepare for it mentally. I call this the Power of 5-3-1.

Put siblings together

If you have two or more children (over about 18 months old), and if they welcome the idea, you can switch your toddler’s bedtime alliance from you to his sibling. Many cultures routinely use this technique as a natural way of helping children learn to sleep without an adult, and many families discover the ease and beauty of this arrangement quite naturally.

An effective routine involves tucking both children into bed with stories and cuddles and then leaving them to snuggle and whisper until they drift off to sleep. A word of caution! If this is new to your children they may find playtime more fun than sleep time. To prevent adding an hour or more of listening to yourself say, “Shhh! Go to sleep!” you may want stay with them a little longer. Read to them, play soft music, or tell them a story in the dark so that when you leave the room they are relaxed and sleepy and will actually sleep. Another idea is to play a child’s audio book in the dark for them to listen to together.

Rylan and Daddy

Rylan and Daddy

Need more tips? The No-Cry Sleep Solution gives you even more gentle ways to get your child to sleep through the night.

Comment Below: What questions do you have that you’d like to see on the blog next?

3 Comments

  1. Hello, I’m having some sleep challenges with my 14 month old. She is on a sleep schedule for naps and wake/bedtime and a nighttime routine. The problems are night waking and being dependent on nursing to sleep. At one year she is waking a handful of times at night and she can’t seem to get back to sleep without nursing. She will take rocking as a substitute but when we put her down she wakes up again. we’ve been transitioning her to her own bed and that was going well but now night weaning and she wants to be held all night. I would love for her to learn to self soothe enough to put herself back to sleep when she wakes at night and from naps. Is this possible to do gently?

    • Hi Tara – You’re dealing with a very common situation. A toddler who relys solely on nursing to fall asleep. To change this, begin to remove her from the breast before she is fully asleep. Then hug her and place her in bed – but keep your hand on her and shhh to her until she is settled. The technique is called the “Gentle Removal System” or “The Pantley Pull-Off.” There are several long chapters on this in The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers & Preschoolers. Check out my website for excerpts and tips – nocrysolution.com

    • Oh, boy! Night Nurslings are such a common question that I have several chapters on it in The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers & Preschoolers. If you want to send me an email I’ll send you an excerpt that fits your question. elizabeth@pantley.com You can also read excerpts here: http://www.pantley.com/elizabeth/books/index.html

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