It can be really annoying for some parents when young children start waking 3 and 4 times at night crying, coming into their parents’ bed or wandering the house, especially if their child usually sleeps through the night.
For other parents, having nightly visitors is not a problem. They’d rather have another body in their bed than be up and down returning an upset kid back to their own bed. It seems a lot easier too, when the child goes straight back to sleep once they’re in dad and mum’s bed.
Each whānau will decide what is right for them.
Pātai atu ki te whānau
Some parents don’t mind their children sleeping in with them; actually, some rather like it.
- What are your thoughts about having extras in your bed during the night?
- Are you and your partner united in your thinking?
- How do you think it affects the quality of everyone’s sleep?
If this is a new behaviour, try figuring out what might be influencing the nightly waking; for example, the arrival of a new sibling. In the light of day this may appear to have had little impact, but a new baby may also mean a change:
- of the child’s bed or bedroom
- in parental focus
- in the time and attention spent just with them
- with more visitors and some staying over in the house
- of the time spent attending daycare.
Pātai atu ki te whānau
- What changes have happened in your whānau recently?
- Have you noticed any other behaviour changes on top of the night waking?
For some children, the waking is due to some type of change for them and then has morphed into a nightly habit. They can start in their own bed, but as soon as they wake, they go straight to join dad and mum in their bed.
Having a plan
For the parents who want a kid-free bed during the night and their child staying put, having a plan to respond to the night waking is helpful.
Once dad and mum have agreed on their plan, it’s important that all caregivers in the whānau stick with the plan too.
- routines for bedtime — what’s been established already and how can that be maintained when the child wakes during the night?
- keeping a sleep diary that shows how much sleep a child is actually having. Include times they went to sleep, woke (either in the morning or during the night) and any day naps
- talking with the child, both during the day and at bedtime, to reinforce the whānau expectations — it’s much better then, than in the middle of the night when everyone is a bit groggy and grizzly
- giving plenty of praise and encouragement to the child for following those expectations
- having supports to help them if they wake — for example, a night light, a soft toy or cuddly, or a few books to look at without getting out of bed
- being clear with them about consequences for non-compliance and what dad and mum have agreed on — for example, bedroom doors might be shut
- when they wake, limiting any conversations and interactions with them to a bare minimum
- staying calm when it can be so easy to get angry.
As boring and tiresome as it can be, for the really determined kid who keeps coming back time and time again, parents may have to set up a ‘lookout’ to encourage them to stay in bed. For example, putting a chair next to their child’s bed or at their bedroom door where the caregiver can relax while they’re ‘on watch’.
- Not sleepingOpens in new window
- Staying calm with kidsOpens in new window
- SleepingOpens in new window
- Raising Children website - Preschoolers: sleepOpens in new window
How does this relate to the SKIP resources?
Opens in new windowRead my favourite story again and again — because I like hearing stories about other little kids who sometimes wake up at night just like me.
Six things children need - Te kōrero me te whakarongo - Talking and listeningOpens in new window
Talking and listening using a calm voice and simple explanations suitable for my age helps me understand what is expected.