When and how to transition your child from cosleeping is as unique as every breastfeeding and weaning journey.
Cosleeping is, in many ways, like breastfeeding. Maybe you always knew that you would cosleep, or you just stumbled into it. Perhaps you fell in love with the closeness that cosleeping can create between you and your child’s shared sleep, or it was simply the best way for everyone in the house to get some sleep.
Either way, there comes a time when you feel that your child is big enough to be sleeping in their own bed.
Ideally, the transition from cosleeping would happen when your child feels emotionally ready for night separation. But there are times when waiting for this to happen is not in the best interest of the family. Here are 5 ideas to help you transition your child out of your bed:
1. Place Bed on the Floor
Introduce the idea by continuing room-sharing, just not in the same bed. Whether a crib mattress or sleeping bag, make a “bed” for your child on the floor of your bedroom. This really worked well with my second child. I had started talking to her about transitioning out of the bed when it became apparent that I was pregnant with her brother. At first, she would sleep on a crib mattress next to my bed every night, but eventually, she started sleeping some nights in her bedroom until she was then sleeping every night in her room.
(A newborn waking several times a night likely also helped her make that final step to sleeping in her room.)
2. New Bed in the New Bedroom
Make the transition really special by purchasing a new bed in your child’s bedroom. Go the extra mile and repaint the bedroom, and involve your child in the decoration decisions. This worked well with my first and third children. With my first, she transitioned cold-turkey from cosleeping after we revealed a newly decorated bedroom. With my third, he was really excited to pick out, and then try out, new train-themed bedding.
3. Transition Object
It was evident from birth that my third child was also terrified of the dark. I slept with a lamp on in bedroom through the night when he was a newborn, not just to make it easier when he woke for a feeding and diaper-change, but also because he would cry unconsolably in the dark. He continued this in his carseat, requiring a nightlight in the car to ward off the darkness. And so he grew into a child who definitely required a nightlight.
Your child might do well with another transition object, maybe a lovey like a favorite stuffed animal toy — my third child had a small herd of beanie babies that accompanied him every night — or glow-in-the-dark sticker stars on the ceiling, or a CD of lullabies playing the background, or even a certain aroma wafting from your essential oil diffuser. Experiment with your child’s favorites to see what may help him or her feel more secure while sleeping away from you.
4. Allow Exceptions
Sometimes, children need more security than other times. If your child is sick, has a nightmare, or is craving extra time spent with you after a busy day, it may do more good to let your child cosleep another night or part of the night. It’s important to meet our children’s emotional needs, especially related to distress, to strengthen their healthy emotional attachment to you.
It’s important to be consistent when trying to change long-standing bedtime routines, but drawing too hard of line can backfire. Your child could become very resistant to the idea of transitioning from cosleeping, or could begin acting-out in other ways during the day, such as increased tantrums or withdrawing emotionally. Transitioning a child from cosleeping doesn’t mean that nighttime parenting should stop.
5. Sleepover Parties
Once your child has fully transitioned to his or her own bed, try some sleepover parties in your room. Sleepovers keep that connection established through cosleeping alive by revisiting that connection, and reminding your child that you cherished that time cosleeping, too. This works really well when you have older children, too, who have long transitioned out on their own — it’s a treat for everyone!