By Vicki Little
To be perfectly honest, whenever I allowed my sweet little babies to cuddle with me in bed, it was just as much for me as it was for them. They are little for such a short time, and I am sure it won’t be long before I’ll have to beg them to snuggle up next to me. But teaching children to sleep in their own beds (and stay there through the night) is important for so many reasons. Getting quality sleep and learning to become independent are both at the top of the list. But going cold turkey doesn’t typically offer the best results. Ease the transition of moving your co-sleeping toddler and improve your chances of success with these simple steps.
BEFORE YOU START
Talk about how they will be sleeping in their own room soon and introduce a snuggle item so they will have something familiar that smells like your room to comfort them. Let them pick out a special night light so they aren’t scared and limit drinking liquids before bedtime. (It is common for kids to regress in bed-wetting when going through this type of transition.) Start the process about a week before you officially move them.
Then you need to decide how quickly you want to transition. If you are ready to have your bed back immediately, or if your sleep is being impacted, putting them back in their own bed and slowly leaving their room will be your best route. If this is the case, follow the “Fast Track” approach below for your child’s transition.
SLOW AND STEADY
Start with naps. Since you are still allowing them to sleep in your bed at night, it will be important to stand firm that all naps must happen in the child’s own room. If necessary, follow the steps under “Fast Track” to help them adjust to naps in their room.
Let them sleep on the floor with a pillow and blanket. If you have a cot or futon mattress that would be fine as well. The idea is to make sleeping in your room less comfortable than sleeping in their own room, so even if they don’t want to admit it, they will kind of prefer their own bed.
Transition them to their own room. This will be an area that you customize to your preferences based on how your child is doing. Maybe you still allow your child to sleep in your room on weekends only. Maybe you need to follow the steps in “Fast Track.” Or possibly your child has transitioned into their room because they didn’t like your floor. If they get scared or sneak into your room for any reason, telling them that they need to sleep on the floor will maintain consistency and may possibly reduce how often they get out of bed.
Lay in bed with your child as he or she falls asleep. Or lay right next to the bed, where your child can touch you.
Increase the distance. Go a bit further and further each night. Try sitting on the floor, then moving to the middle of the room, and finally, moving right outside the door.
Decrease the time. You can do this in conjunction with increasing the distance or as a separate step. Instead of waiting for your child to fall asleep, wait only 10-15 minutes, then less each night to the point you feel is appropriate.
As with everything in parenting, every situation is different. Your child may absolutely love being a big kid and sleeping in his or her own room the first night (in which case Mom may be the one who needs a few more days to adjust), or it may take a few months and teeny, tiny baby steps. Either way, do what is best for your family but maintain consistency to avoid setbacks. Your back is going to love feet-free nights.
Vicki Little is a work-at-home mom with two young kids. A Colorado native, she is the Publisher and Editor of Macaroni Kid Aurora and Downtown Denver. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering, reading, camping, or enjoying a bottle of wine with friends.
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