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Gradual retreat

This strategy is a way of helping your child get used to going to sleep without their parent/carer in the room. It can be useful for children who need to be cuddled to sleep. 

It is a gentle technique which is unlikely to cause distress to your child or you. However, it may take some weeks to be effective. 

It is useful for toddlers and children who do not need to feed at night and who are old enough to understand that their parent is still in the room when they are not touching. 

  • Have a consistent, positive bedtime routine.
  • Say goodnight and sit on a chair or cushion next to the bed. 
  • If they cry, gently put your hand on them. Avoid eye contact. 
  • When your child stops crying, go back and sit on the chair or cushion. 
  • Repeat every time they cry and stay in the room until they are asleep.
  • Return and repeat whenever your child wakes up during the night.
  • Each night, move the chair or cushion slightly further away from the bed. If your child is upset by this, bring it back to the previous night’s position. 
  • Once the chair is outside the room, your child is ready to go to sleep by themselves. 
  • Do move the chair or cushion back several times during one bedtime if it is going well. 
  • Do go at your child’s pace. 
  • It may take several weeks until your child goes to sleep happily on their own using this technique.