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Sometimes, children want to come into their parents' bed in the night. If parents don't want this, they can find out what might be causing it and make a plan to discourage it.

It can be really annoying for some parents when young children wake at night and come into their parents’ bed.

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 their parents' bed.

Each whānau will decide what is right for them.

Deciding what's best

Pātai atu ki te whānau:

Some parents don’t mind their children sleeping with them – and actually, some rather like it.

  • What are your thoughts about having extras in your bed during the night?
  • Do you and your partner agree?
  • How do you think it affects the quality of everyone’s sleep?

If this is a new behaviour, try figuring out what might be causing it – for example, the arrival of a new sibling. Although having a new baby may appear to have had little impact, it may mean a change:

  • of the child’s bed or bedroom
  • in parental focus
  • in the time and attention spent just with them
  • in the number of visitors, with some staying over in the house
  • in the time spent in daycare.

Pātai atu ki te whānau:

  • What changes have happened in your whānau recently?
  • Have you noticed any other changes on top of the night waking?

For some children, the waking is due to a change and has morphed into a nightly habit. They can start in their own bed, but as soon as they wake, they go straight to join their parents.

Having a plan

For the parents who want a kid-free bed, having a plan is helpful.

Once parents have agreed on their plan, it’s important that all caregivers in the whānau stick with it.

Think about:

  • what routines have been set up around bedtimes and how they can be maintained when the child wakes during the night
  • keeping a sleep diary that shows how much sleep a child is actually having, including 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 expectations
  • having supports to help children 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 and what dad and mum have agreed on – for example, bedroom doors might be shut
  • when they wake, limiting any conversations and interactions 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’.

How does this relate to Tākai resources?

Baby wall frieze – Pānuitia taku tino kōrero anō, anō – read my favourite story again and again

Six things children need – Te kōrero me te whakarongo – talking and listening

Helpful resources for whānau