The Bedtime Battle and an Unexpected Ally in the War Against Sleep Defiance

DSC_8710Everett has presented so many sleep challenges that the concept of just “tucking in” a child and saying goodnight seems more like sci-fi than real life.  He started life as a high needs baby (thanks to an undiagnosed sensitivity to lactose) that caused me to bounce him constantly.  That set us up for a solid 18 months of bouncing for every nap and to bed at night, sometimes I even had to get out of bed and bounce him back to sleep when nursing wouldn’t do the trick.

When we moved I never re-inflated that damn ball.  I refused to be chained to it anymore.  He moved on to being rocked to sleep in a recliner.  I stopped that a few months later when I got rid of that ugly chair.  It was DO OR DIE.

Surprisingly, that transition wasn’t too bad and he was allowing me to tuck him in at night and leave.  PRAISE THE SLEEP GODS!  It was bliss and life was easy.  Then Everett got sick.  Very sick.  Sick enough that he spent several days in the hospital.  It was back to nightly cuddles and nursing and of course, I was fine with that.  When he got better things didn’t change.  They got even worse.  Everytime I tried leaving him to fall asleep his screams went to 11.  He tantrumed and came out of the room in search of me saying to his dad “Mom Best.  Not you Best.  MOM!”  I couldn’t catch a break… so I laid with him each night, sometimes 30 minutes to an hour.

This wasn’t working.  

I’m all for cuddling my boys, it is my favorite thing to do.  This was different.  At three years old I felt it was time to change this habit and make life easier for us all.

Two nights ago I made the decision to just do it.  I wouldn’t do any forms of CIO or force him to stay in his room while he screamed and choked, because I knew that would happen.  I did a bedtime routine right from his favorite book “How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight” first.

“Here is a kiss” and I kissed him. “a hug” and gave him a big hug “then one kiss more.”

“Goodnight, goodnight little Everettasaur.”

“No!  I not a dinosaur!  I Everett!” was his response.  Darn, I thought that was going to work!  He loves that book.

Next I explained that he could be brave and mommy would be in another room.  I could hear him on his monitor and would keep him safe.

His response?  Patting the space next to him in his Queen bed… “More room.  Lay down me.”

Gosh why is he so cute?

Then my lightbulb moment.  


“Everett, what if I TALK to you on the monitor, right here, and you can hear my voice.   Will you let mommy do that and you stay in your room?”

He didn’t reply but didn’t cry or protest.  I took this as my sign and tucked him in with another kiss and ran to my room, ready to quickly speak to the monitor so he wouldn’t get out of bed before I could.

photo-13For the next 15 minutes I spoke or sang to him.  If I saw he was getting up I softly told him to go to sleep.  He asked me to sing him songs so I did.  He still loves being sung to as does his bigger brother.  He would periodically call out for me just to make sure I was still listening.  Then… the sweet sweet sound of his breathing that signaled he was asleep.

We did the same method for his nap, then his bedtime.  I’m calling it.  It has worked again!  I used this same method for my older son but when he was a bit younger.  At the time, I had an infant so I was far more motivated to get his bedtime routine shorter.

Everett still gets his cuddle time, trust me.  I woke up and he was in my bed last night, curled up next to me.  I don’t want to give that up just yet.  The battles at bedtime though, I can live without those.


Do you have any tricks or tips for teaching children/toddlers how to fall sleep independently?
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  • Leigh

    My two and four year olds share a room and lately hay has worked is after the lights are out and the music is on, one parent sits on their couch on the other side of the room and plays iPad with no interactions as they fall asleep. not perfect, but not tedious.

  • A Le

    THANK YOU for sharing this experience!

  • Karen Roya

    Kim, how did you find out Everett had a lactose problem. That sounds suspiciously like my son. Great post! Hope it keeps working

    • kimrosas

      We just listened to others who had similar problems and recognized the signs. I removed dairy from my diet and it started getting better.

  • Megan M.

    I wish my voice worked for my son. He’s 23 months and he has to be able to touch me most nights. He does naps on his own though- He has the pack and play transformed into a fort and when he’s tired he just lays down in it and goes to sleep. But at night he will fight it like crazy and needs me to lay with him. It’s extra bizarre because he still has a crib sidecar to my bed and he wants his own space and will crawl into it, but then reach his hand back over to touch my ear or arm or something. Has to be skin though or he thinks I left. It’s inconvenient at times.

    • kimrosas

      Everett was like that for a long time… he would roll away and have his own space but would keep an arm on me or touching me just enough to know I was there. On the one hand, it is very flattering and sweet that just a little touch and your presence is all they want and need. On the other, WHY CAN’T YOU SLEEP WITHOUT TOUCHING ME?! YOU ONLY HAVE ONE HAND ON MY ARM! I get it. 🙂

  • Sheena

    Oh my goodness! He sounds exactly like my son, who coincidentally enough has the name Everett. He’s still only 14 months but sleep every single night is a struggle. From day 1 he will not sleep without me beside him. We tried putting him in his crib and finally got him sleeping in there but then he would wake up every half hour and I became a zombie… so back to the bed with us it was, only this time I sidecarred the crib so we’d have more room. To this day that’s what we’re doing but he still fights sleep constantly and still wakes up every hour, sometimes more and will sit up in bed and cry till I lay him back down and nurse him to sleep. Someone please tell me this will one day be a faint memory? Love my baby cuddles still… lol.

  • Molly B. Lancaster

    This is my 3 year old and my 7 month old..I’m a zombie dairy is out 4 me too and actually it’s not the lactose normally that’s very rare it’s the milk proteins so reading labels in important i dished so many things with hidden dairy ….sigh nice to know there are others like me.

  • Leeann

    That is an awesome way to comfort a child who is having trouble sleeping! I love that you are able to stand firm and keep him in bed while still letting him know you are present and watching. I’ve wondered how the sleep struggle will go and have been pretty terrified after watching a few episodes of “Super Nanny.” This is going in my idea book!

  • Jenna Barraclough

    Awwww!! I would have loved to keep mine in bed with me but he just wont sleep in the bed with me. Its weird. If he’s really warm and really sleepy and nursing he will nod off for a couple of minutes but I can’t move at all or he wakes up and wants to play. He will only fall asleep after laying in his bed with his mozart on and then curls up on his stomach with his forhead smack on the bed. Ive tried turning him over and it doesn’t go over well. I and my husband also sleep stomach down even when I was in my 3rd trimester Id wake up on my bulged belly with one huge back ache. He just sleeps the way he likes and I take what I can get.