My child won’t go to sleep unless I’m lying next to her: what should I do?

What should you do if your child can't get to sleep without you next to them? It can be a habit that becomes harder to break as they get older, but we've got tips from a child sleep expert and our mums on some things to try if you're keen to make a change...

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Bedtime is, for many parents, the best part of the day. You get to snuggle up with your child, read them a book or 2, say night night and turn out the lights.

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But what happens then? Do you give them a kiss before you go and leave them to fall asleep? Maybe they’re asleep as soon as the lights go out?

Or maybe, like lots of our mums have shared, you can’t go anywhere until they’re in the land of nod.

That’s the issue one of our MFM team mums had with her daughter until she was 7. She tells us: “I’d lie down next to her in her bed, as she went to sleep.

“Sometimes it could take up to 30 or 45 minutes before she’d drop off. Very often I would think she was asleep, but I’d  get up to leave the room and she’d call after me. I was never able to leave her until she was fast asleep.”

What do our mums say about staying with their kids until they’re asleep?

When she shared the above story on Facebook, we had loads of responses. And we have to say that a fair few parents don’t seem to find this to be a problem – they like the quiet time they get with their kids at night. 

Laura P said: “I don’t see the issue with this, your kids are only young once – and it works for their family!” 

And Emma A, who’s in a similar situ, told us: “Can it be frustrating at times? Most definitely. Will I still do it? Yes. For how long? As long as they need me to. Why? Because my kids will always know I will always be there when they need me.”

Others, though, would rather know that their children will be able to sleep without them when they’re older, like Lucy H, who says:

“I hope this isn’t me in 6 years’ time. My 19-month-old still won’t fall to sleep unless I’m beside her and doesn’t sleep through, not for the want of trying everything!”

What does the expert say?

Lucy Wolfe, mum of 4 and author of The Baby Sleep Solution, acknowledges that these sorts of sleep issues can definitely affect older children and not just toddlers – so if your child is older and still going through this, know you’re not alone.

Here are some steps you can take to help them sleep without you there:

1. First off, Lucy says it’s important to make sure they have fun times in their bedroom in the day so they associate it as a place they like to be in when it comes to going to bed.

2. If they’re scared of the dark, invest in a cute night light (we’ve got some great night lights right here).

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3. Lucy then suggests starting the bedtime routine in your child’s bedroom around 30 minutes before actual ‘sleep’ and including:

  • cuddles
  • massage
  • stories
  • meditations for kids
  • quiet music
  • use mention of a guardian angel, protector or warrior watching over them so they know they’re safe.

4. Then when the lights go out, tell them there’s no talking. If they talk, just repeat that there’s no talking (what Lucy calls the ‘broken record’ method).

You can stay with them, but hopefully, by doing all of this you can reduce the amount of time you have to stay with them from, say, half an hour to (eventually) just 5 or 10 minutes. It won’t be long before they’re in the land of nod.

Do any of these things actually work?

One of our mums, Dominique R says doing the above has really worked for her and her 7-year-old daughter: “Foot massage is my secret weapon when it comes to getting my daughter to sleep,” she says. 

“And while I still have to lie next to her for a little bit, doing lots of massage and story-reading has shortened the time I have to be with her once the lights go out from 45 minute to about 10. I have also introduced a strict ‘no talking’ rule for sleep time. 

“Another thing I try if I get up to leave and she’s still awake is tell her I’m just going to turn everything off downstairs and lock the front door to make sure the house is safe and that I’ll come back to her in a few minutes.

“She’ll let me go if I promise to come back – but when I return a few minutes later – she’s always asleep, without fail.”

One more tip to help your child sleep without you there

One of our mums on Facebook, Lisa M, offered a really good tip for something she does so her child knows she’s not too far – but also means she can leave the bedroom:

“My daughter struggled to settle when she was little. Rather than sit in her room we used to potter about upstairs, putting washing away etc so that she knew we were there but weren’t in her bedroom.

“Then gradually she needed us less and less and we weaned her off slowly.” ???

Images: Getty

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