The following came in a Boston.com readers' Q&A with Child Caring writer Barbara Meltz:
Question: Hi Barbara -- my 3-year-old has been refusing to stay in her bed at bedtime for the last month or so. We find her on the floor of her room, or sitting in a chair in her room, etc. She'll fall asleep OK, but has been waking up.
She transitioned to a bed quite easily (had to move her from the crib for safety reasons) about 3 months ago. At first she loved the bed, was every excited, etc. She'll come into our room, we bring her back & she comes back very shortly.
One night out of sheer fatigue & exhaustion we let her climb into bed with us (yeah, I know!!) and every night since has been a battle. When we ask why she doesn't want to stay in her bed, she says "I miss you!". How sweet --- but this nightly battle has affected everyone's sleep...any advice?
Barbara Meltz: Sunfish, You know, I've totally changed my tune about letting a child sleep in bed with you. If that's what it takes for you all to sleep, I'm not so sure it's the end of the world. On the other hand, if even one of you can't sleep like that, then it's a problem.
So what I'd do is set up a pallet for her in your room, a comfy spot on the floor where she can curl up -- hopefully without even waking you -- whenever she wants to. The alternative is to go through the drill of taking her back into her room and settling her back down each night, which will involve you staying in her room with her.
If you opt for that, start by getting her back in her bed and you sit in a chair next to the bed, rubbing her back. After a few nights, you will be able only to be in the chair without the back rub. A few nights more, and you move the chair away from her, so that you are eventually at the door. You get the idea. This is a process, it's slow and exhausting; everytime you shortcut it, you end up having to start over.
Which is why the pallet in your room gets my vote. Once you give her permission to do this, she will no longer need to wake you every night (let her know when it's OK to wake you: if she feels sick, if she's had a bad dream, etc.) and the stage will pass more quickly.
More quickly, not quickly. This can go on and off for years. But the more you fight it, the harder it is. This is, by the way, a distinctly American issue; we have this thing about insisting our children become independent sleepers at very early ages. Even pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton has come around on this issue. I'm not saying we should all be co-sleepers, but I think we need to relax about it.
So, are you relaxed about it? Got some advice of your own. Let us know in our comments section below. Also, be sure to ask Barbara a question yourself at 1 p.m. next Monday on Boston.com. And check out the recent posts and comments on these Child Caring topics: