Transitioning from co-sleeping can bring about a lot of anxiety for parents. Sometimes because their child has never slept in their own bed or crib and other times because the co-sleeping started because of sleeping difficulties their child or baby was having when they were in their own crib. If your child was sleeping well while co-sleeping, and the co-sleeping didn’t start out of necessity, then the transition to their own bed or crib should go relatively smoothly as your child already has self-soothing skills. However, if you started co-sleeping out of necessity and your child has, or still is, having sleep difficulties then the transition will take longer and involve more work on your part.
Co-sleeping during the first 6 months of a baby’s life, especially out of necessity due to ongoing sleep difficulties, has been associated with chronic awakenings. The longer parents co-sleep with their babies the higher the risk of night awakenings past 1 year of age. If co-sleeping isn’t working for your family, it is definitely worth taking action and transitioning sooner rather than later.
Here are my top tips for successfully transitioning:
Decide on a time.
Once you’ve decided it is time to make the transition it is important to sit down with your partner and decide on a time to make the transition. Pick a time where you all, as a family, have time to concentrate on making the transition. It is important to have both parents on board with making the change to ensure you have support and allow the best chance for success. I usually suggest making sure you have at least 2 weeks free to concentrate on making the transition. Make sure you have no vacations or big events that will get in the way of your child’s sleep schedule or ability to sleep in their own crib or bed.
Prepare your child.
If you have an older toddler it is very important to prepare them for the impending change. Talk to them about why you are making the change, that you are confident they can sleep on their own and answer any questions that they have. Give them the date that they will move to their own bed, so that they are ready for when it will happen and they aren’t just surprised one night that they now have a totally new sleep environment.
For babies, especially if they have never slept in their own room or crib, give them opportunities to play in there before you start making the transition. This will give them positive associations with their crib. If comfortable you can even leave the room for a few minutes while they are playing to show them that they can be in their crib on their own.
Have a plan.
The key to transitioning from co-sleeping is to have a plan of how you will do it. You need to make a plan that you are confident you can be consistent with. If you are not sure what your plan should be, this is where a consultation with Little Big Dreamers can come in. We can advise on the best plan based on your unique circumstances.
When transitioning from co-sleeping, a lot of parents prefer a gradual approach. This is where you start by being right by your baby’s side while they fall asleep in the crib, but as they get better at that, and the days go by, you gradually remove your presence from the room until they are falling asleep on their own.
For toddlers and children that are in their own beds, it is important to resist the urge to lay down with them in their own bed as part of the transitioning from co-sleeping as you may just find yourself accidentally starting a new sleep crutch, which you will need to address later down the track. Toddlers and children will often get out of bed in order to climb back in to their parents bed in the middle of the night. You may wish to return them to their beds without interaction each time they get up to address this behavior.
Now it is time to get started on making the transition. When making changes to your baby or child’s sleep habits, no matter the approach you chose to use, there is always likely to be some crying. I’d love to tell you this is avoidable, but unfortunately it isn’t. This is your little one’s way of protesting the change, of making their voice heard about this new way of doing things. Rest assured though, they will be fine because they are safe and secure with all of the love and attention you show them throughout the day.
If you feel like you need 1:1 support to make the transition from co-sleeping please do not hesitate to reach out. I offer packages to suit all needs and budgets. Have you had a chance to join my free community where parents come together to discuss child sleep issues? Join here!