I always ask my cosleeping families if their current situation is working for every member of the family. The answer is almost always no. If it’s no longer working to share your bed with your little one it’s time to make a change.
So how do you stop cosleeping? How do you get your little one to feel comfortable in their own sleep space? Here are a few tips for making the transition from cosleeping to independent sleep as smooth as possible.
Set Up the Sleep Space
The work for transitioning from cosleeping starts in the day.
- Decide where they will sleep. If you are simply looking to move your baby from your bed to their crib or bassinet in your room, awesome. If you are looking to move them out of your bed and into their room and their bed, awesome. Think about your family and what your sleep goals are. Once you have decided where you’d like your little one to sleep move forward with purpose to avoid confusion.
- Spend some low-pressure quality time with your little one in and around their independent sleep space. This can look like quiet playtime, storytime, or folding laundry while your baby explores the area. Choose a time when your baby isn’t sleepy and has just eaten so they are happy and content. Set up their crib, and put pictures on the wall. If you are keeping them in your room then set the bassinet or crib across the room from your bed if possible. It will be a harder transition if you are too close.
- Talk to your baby about their bed. Even though your baby can’t talk back they are listening. The language and tone you use to describe their room or bed will impact the way they receive it when it’s time to make a change.
- Get a new blanket or lovey for your toddler that is specifically for their new room.
Have a Plan for Night One
One of the biggest mistakes I see families make when they are ready to stop cosleeping is they just wing it. They get so sick of bedsharing and are so overwhelmed by making a change that they decide to just do it.
Bedsharing is inevitably an emotional experience and when parents try to “rip off the bandaid” it can make the process more difficult for everyone. Once you have laid your foundation make sure you have a plan for what will happen when your baby gets upset at being put to bed in a new place. If they get upset and you give in and take them to your bed after a while then you’ve sent them the message that all they need to do is cry hard and things will return to normal. Transitioning from cosleeping is a big change for everyone. It is fair to expect your baby to have some feelings about it and be confused by the change. They deserve space and time to adjust to their new environment and you can help them by being calm, having a plan, and some support for when you get started.
Handling the Wake-up at Night
Once your little one falls asleep in their new space they will most likely wake up sometime in the middle of the night. We all experience some wake-ups at night. We adjust our pillows, roll to the side, or check the clock. At the beginning of the transition to their bed, your little one may have trouble going back to sleep on their own. This is normal because as we’ve stated before this is a change and it can take time to adapt to change.
When they wake up give them a few minutes to try and settle back down, sometimes they just need a second. After a few minutes go and check to make sure they don’t need anything like a clean diaper, help getting adjusted, or solving another issue. Once you’ve determined your child is safe and healthy remind them quietly it’s time for bed and step away. Sleeping through the night in a new space won’t happen the very first night. That’s ok and expected. The biggest help you can give your child is to be calm, quiet, and consistent. Don’t change the rules in the middle of the night. They don’t understand the difference between bedtime and 2 am or 5 am. This goes back to boundaries and smoothing out this transition for your child. If you get stuck or feel overwhelmed reach out for help. We can set up a free sleep assessment and create a plan just for your family.
Celebrate in the Morning
After your little one spends their first night in their own space greet them with a huge smile. Even if the night is interrupted they woke up in their bed! Celebrate with them and give them lots of love and connection. It’s important for your little one to have their own space but also know that in the morning you are there and are pleased with them. Eat breakfast together if possible and tell them how happy you are that they woke up in their bed. Reinforce your positive feelings toward their sleep space and set a good example for them to mimic. Creating happy, positive energy around their bed can help them feel secure and relaxed.
Kids feel confident when they have age-appropriate control and when they know that their parent also feels confident. If you are feeling overwhelmed or emotional about this change in your family dynamic please reach out for help so that everyone in your family can feel relaxed and happy at bedtime.