My 15 months old baby boy is still cosleeping with us
(Mississauga, Ontario, Canada)
Question: Hi Heidi, our sleep training problem with our son is still an ongoing issue. I remember writing to you regarding to sleep training methods early this spring. We have tried everything from the Ferber method, to soothing method, to combination of both, and now we end up in co-sleeping. Starting at 7 mths our son has been co-sleeping with my husband and I and now he's 15 mths. We find all the sleeping methods failed us miserably b/c our son is both very stubborn and clingy. He needs constant close contacts and reassurance from both my husband and I, but mostly from his mom to fall asleep. We managed to co-sleeping for the past 8 mths, but now I find that my son is getting bigger and I would cramped to the corner and sleeping at the end of the bed while my husband takes the other end, so we all can fit in the bed. Unfortunately I don't find that position comfortable anymore and wake up feeling very tired and stiffed all over. I have tried to convince my husband to convert the crib into a single bed and we can try sleep training him to sleep on his own bed. My husband isn't too crazy about that idea. I think my husband likes our son sleeping in our bed with us. I think it gives him reassurance and comfort knowing our son is in our bed. The one stuck here in discomfort and sleepless nights is me. I don't know what to do. Do you have any suggestions for me, Heidi?
From what I remember, and also from what you write now, your son indeed needs close contact and reassurance from you and his dad, and he clearly makes that understood. You can choose to fight that – for example with the Ferber method – or else accept it and indulge in it (in a controlled way) – as you have been doing with the cosleeping. The latter option is usually the most effective: by giving a child the reassurance he needs, you allow him to grow in self confidence which help him become more independent in the long run than when going the hard way.
That is not to say you should give in to everything he requests, hold him constantly, cosleep in a very uncomfortable way etc. What I suggest to you is the following: find a way to cosleep comfortably and which allows to gradually teach your son to sleep independently.
The first thing to do is make sure YOU sleep well too. Is the crib you have in some way convertible to a cosleeper / side car bed? Where you would get its mattress to be level to your mattress, with the side next to your bed is open.
Quite a few parents also opt to temporarily remove their bed base and put their mattress on the floor. A baby mattress or a toddler mattress next to that, would then make a fine cosleeper setup. Your son will then still have you both near, but at least you will have more space to yourself again.
Make his baby/toddler mattress reall his space: have funny, bright colour sheets, maybe a musical mobile or cuddly toy (safely attached) near, … anything he likes. Be confident (or at least act confidently!) and tell him that is where he sleeps. Give him time to get used to the idea, be near him on your mattress with your arm around him, while he lies on his mattress. Praise him enthusiastically whenever he lies there quietly, has slept well, …
Then, when you feel that he becomes more confident about going to sleep by himself, and has learned that his baby/toddler mattress is his space, you can set up the crib again. Keep all the decorations and things that make it his space, and keep it close to your bed. Again, stay near at first, and praise him for every good, …
After a while, you will know when it is time for him to move further away from your bed, or your room. The whole process may take several week or maybe a couple of months, but with patience you can work on confident sleeping in your son.
Also, always tag him along when preparing ‘his space’, his crib, … talking to him and making it attractive to him, telling him how good he will be, …