Helping Your Child Fall Asleep Alone

by Ann Douglas

sleeping aloneYour preschooler simply won't fall asleep unless you're at right along side. Ready for a change? Here's how to transition from cuddling with a parent to snoozing alone.

Your child is used to falling asleep with you right along beside. Now you want to switch over to a different bedtime routine: falling asleep alone.

Whether you help your preschooler to make this transition gradually over a period of weeks (perhaps sitting in a chair beside his bed, then out in the hall, in your own room, so that you can provide verbal reassurance) or go with a more "cold turkey" approach (in which you tuck 'em in, reassure that you're nearby, and provide reassurance as necessary) will depend on such factors as:

  • What you've learned over the years about your child's temperament and ability to cope with change (a "go with the flow" kind of kid or is easily upset by even the slightest deviation to a normal routine?)
  • Your parenting philosophies (does the approach seem consistent with your overall parenting beliefs?)
  • The realities of your family's situation (do you have a new baby to attend to in the evening, at the same time that your four-year-old wants to lie down?)
  • How desperate you are to resolve your child's sleep difficulties (do you feel like you're dealing with a mildly annoying sleep issue, a frustrating sleep problem, or a situation that’s fast becoming a sleep emergency?)

Make sure you have realistic expectations. If your child's spent the past several years making you part of a fall asleep ritual, it may take time for to develop an alternate bedtime routine.

You can help to develop other sleep associations (as opposed to associating you with sleep) by providing a "sleep buddy" (a stuffed animal), music or stories to listen to while drifting off to sleep, and the reassurance that you're still nearby.

Good luck in dealing with this very challenging, but also very common, sleep situation.

What's worked for you?

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site,

Copyright © Ann Douglas. Permission to publish granted to