Co-Sleeping with a Toddler

Archived Q&A and Reviews

2-year-old wants to be held at night

Feb 2004

We co-sleep with our 2 year old child. Sometimes she starts crying during the night (I'm not sure if she's fully awake) and usually she quickly calms down and goes back to sleep if I jut hold her in my arms. Last night this happened two or three times, and the last time my baby actually asked me to put her in my arms. Now, I don't mind holding her if she needs to be comforted, but I'm not going to become a human pillow. How can I tell whether she needs to be hugged or just wants to? Any ideas?

Boy, does that sound familiar!!! My two and a half year old does the exact same thing. I have noticed a pattern that if I hold my daughter during the night in even the slightest way (even just letting her hold my finger) she becomes completely dependant on it to get herself back to sleep. She sleeps very pourly during these times, and so do I. To break the habit, I let her work it out herself. She cries for a few minutes (feels like forever). But I am right next to her, I quietly offer a sip of water or a tissue for her to dry her own tears. Usually, after one, maybe two nights of this, she is back to sleeping without her mommy pillow. The discipline is entirely on my side. She does just fine if I don't intercede, unless of course there is something truly wrong such as a nightmare or pain etc. Good luck. Linda
Having your child wanting you to hold them is truly sweet! At 2 years they are still finding ways to comfort themselves on their own but they also need to have a sense that you are there for them. It is all about building that trust. As a fellow co-sleeper with a 2 year old I would suggest explaining to your child (in the daytime hours) that you love that they want to hug you at night but they can also cuddle with a teddy bear.... or other fav toy (ideally something soft!).
My daughter (19 months) wished just the same thing as you describe recently. She would want to sleep on my chest or at least in my armpit, and one early morning she even made herself comfortable right across my neck. Cuddling wasn't enough, she kept climbing on top of me.

I would accept her sleeping in my armpit (not the other positions) for parts of the night. I would have liked to sleep on my belly, but I prefered to get back to sleep as quickly as possible to trying to convince her to keep a distance. I too, sometimes, like to sleep in my partner's armpit, so I can understand her preference.

It lasted a few nights, then happened less often, and now she sleeps really calm again, with less interruptions than before, and in some distance to me. I guess she wanted to do that for a while because she otherwise couldn't sleep well for one reason or another. Let it be her cold, teething, and/or nightmares. Or it was related to some move towards independence, which is often preluded by a period of increased clingyness. That's no prediction for you and your child, but some encouragement that ''negotiating'' some compromise with her doesn't mean you have to put up with weird night for long. In the long run, if it persists, you can start pushing your child towards more convenient solutions for you rather than letting it become routine. I would try talking to her about it, explaining slowly and in a few very simple words why you want her to sleep next to you rather than in your arms. That worked surprisingly well with my (even younger) daughter with similar wishes. Good nights, Julia

1-year-old's hour-long scooting episodes

Nov 2002

My nearly one year old is on the verge of crawling. We sleep in a family bed, and he has recently started waking in the middle of the night and ''crawling'' and moving all over the bed for about an hour or so. For those of you who co-sleep what did you do about moving babies? Also, does anyone have advice on how to do away with these 4 am wake ups that last an hour or more. Thank you!!! sleepless mom and dad in Oakland

We had the same problem. When my son was almost a year he would wake up as much as four times a night to 'play' or nurse. We loved the idea of having him in our bed with us, we thought he would miss us terribly if we put him in his crib, but at about a year we couldn't take the sleepless nights anymore.

On his first birthday we started putting him in his crib to sleep. The first week was awful. We took turns sleeping on his floor so we'd be there when he woke up. Then he just stopped waking up at night. Now he asks for his crib at night.

I think that a lot of times we woke him up when he slept with us. I don't know that this is the solution for you, but it worked for our family. We had a second baby and she started out in her crib and has been sleeping in her crib for 10-11 hours per night since she was three weeks old.

Good luck! vanessa

We put a queen size futon on the floor and did not have to worry about the baby moving around. This has worked successfully with both kids. Note: We have a large bedroom which could accomodate both the queen bed (where my husband prefers to sleep) and the futon.

Good luck another mom

We also co-sleep with our son. At crawling age we made a small change in our arrangement for a number of reasons. First, he moved around too much, sometimes kicking us in the ribs. Also, we wanted to phase out of night time nursing and if he was sleeping next to me, I felt that he would think of nursing if he woke up (and would let me know by climing on my head). So we moved our matress on to the floor and made a separate bed for our son right next to our matress. We surrounded his mat with bolsters so that if he rolled around, he wouldn't go too far. After he started walking he got up and walked down the hall at night a couple of times. I'm considering replacing his mat with an old fasioned play pen with wooden bars. Having him next to us makes it easy to comfort him at night and to bring him into bed with us in the morning, but the extra space between us has us all sleeping a little better, I think.
Restful Co-sleeper
We co-slept with my son until he was 6 months old. At that point he was constantly waking up early (4:45/5ish) and wanting to play. I was very much into the ''ideal'' of co-sleeping and everybody (parents, husband, friends) were urging me to at least try to crib where my son took his naps. Finally in a wave of sleep-deprivation and misery we started moving our son into the crib after his middle of the night feeding so he ''woke-up'' mornings in the crib. It worked EXTREMELY well and he starting sleeping until 6, 6:30 a couple of times even 7. I think when he couldn't see us immediately, it lessened the incentives to get up and play at that point. Unfortunately thought, despite my love of having him close, I believe he honestly preferred the crib better. He started waking up earlier and earlier at night and easily going back to sleep in his crib. Finally I just gave up and put him down there and he started sleeping his longest stretches since 4months old (when he stopped sleeping through the night after a month of doing it). He routinely sleeps 9-10 hours in the crib, wakes for a feeding and sleeps 2-3 more hours. Although I miss him in bed, I am happier with more sleep and so is he. I learned that just as some parents are happier with co-sleeping, I believe some infants, namely my son, was happier in his own space to my disappointment. A few moms in my moms group have also found this. Also this was done without crying or ''sleep-training''. Don't know if it answers your question but it is a perspective.
Not co-sleeping together anymore

18-month-old sleeps sideways across the bed

A question to those parents whose children sleep in the family bed ... how do you deal with a child who insists on sleeping *across* the bed (not the length of the bed)? My daughter is 18 months and is quite adamant that she's not ready to sleep in a separate bed ... although in the past 3 months she *has* gotten to the point where, once she goes to sleep, she can sleep by herself for 3 hours or so while I get up and do things. (She used to wake up the minute I got up.) So ... she's inching slowly along that continuum from very merged to more separate. However, on the merged aspect ... somewhere in the middle of the night she always turns sideways and I wake up with either her feet or the crown of her head absolutely wedged into my ribs. I gently reposition her and go back to sleep ... about 4 or 5 times every night! She generally sleeps right through these transitions, and then wiggles around so that her head is smushed into my shoulder or arm or head, once again. Any tips?
-- Mary Carol
P.S. BTW, one of her daycare teachers, from India, says oh in India the babies always sleep with their mother.

Reply to Mary Carol,
Kids do turn sideways, and ours still is at 2-1/2 yrs. He has a big bed now and thrashes all over it. Dr Wm. Sears mentions this tendency in his books and says it drives some parents nuts. The most commonly suggested solution is to expand the bed. Some sort of padding (e.g. rolled-up blanket) between you and the child helps.
I have two daughters, one of whom is a kicker, the other a cuddler. The kicker absolutely had to sleep in the perpendicular position. I really didn't mind, but hubby claimed there was no way he could get a good night's sleep with a kid in the bed after a while, either kicker or cuddler. So, despite the customs of India, our kids simply had to sleep separately in order to preserve the health and welfare of the parents. I found that putting a futon on the floor near the bed and letting the child sleep in the futon was a good strategy. Eventually, I would tell them that they had to fall asleep in their own bed, but could come in to the futon after a while if they wanted. They did that about half the time. Now, at 5 and 7, about every third day one of them crawls in with me in the early morning and I love it. Having 2 probably made this all easier, because they do like sharing a room with each other. I don't think there is a cure for perpendicular sleeping. It probably has to do with body temperature or temperament. The kicker, to this day, likes her space.
I can't think of any suggestions regarding how to make it so that your daughter stops moving to a sideways position. Mine still does that, only occasionally, and she's 7-1/2 years old. I just gently move her back. And, yes, she sleeps with me. It has come and gone. For 2 years she slept in her own bed (from 2-4 years of age). Then back she came on a periodic basis (1-2 nights/week) from 4-5 years of age. Then from 5 until present she's with me full time. When she moved her stuffed animals from her room into mine, I realized it would be for awhile. Experience with my now 16-year-old bears out what I've read -- somewhere around 9-11, they go off on their own, never to return. My now 16-year-old went to her own bed full time at age 10, moved to a downstairs bedroom to get away as she entered puberty, and when I inquired about staying in a motel room on a trip together, she looked at me like I was out of my mind and said, sure (read, absolutely not). Maybe the only suggestion I can give you is to hang in there until your child is a teenager -- believe me, they separate naturally.
No answer in particular to the mother who's daughter always sleeps sideways, except to note that my son does the same. He's always been sort of a whirlwind while sleeping whether in his own bed or mine. Now at 2.5 years, he also insists on bringing all sort of comfort items into the bed - his baseball mitt, catcher's mask, hat, golf club, flashlight, Curious George books and, sometimes even a teddy bear - all at the same time. Since my husband and I have just separated, I allow it since I believe my son needs all the comfort he can get. I somehow manage to sleep on the edge of the bed often with feet poking into me.
Let's see if I can explain this without pictures (^_^) The three of us take up more room on top than we do on bottom because shoulders are wider than feet and the baby (toddler really) takes up half a space. Since we have the crib set up in a side car arrangement, our bed also has more room on top than on bottom. If Elie turns a full 180 degrees, I gently move him, but not all the way back. I simply swing his feet and then *angle myself* to be parallel with him! If he's in the middle that means my head goes in the crib, otherwise, his head goes in the crib.

What works better though is when we're curled up close around each other, then he sleeps soundly and doesn't move. I usually shove a pillow behind my sacrum and snooze away. We usually start the night out in mommy needs her space mode, then move to the cuddle mode after he wakes up to nurse. ---Sophie