How to Easily Transition Your Baby into Their Own Bed? Without Tears…
In today’s world, many parents opt for co-sleeping. Research indicates that it offers a range of benefits. Co-sleeping helps the mother recover more quickly from childbirth, stimulates lactation, helps regulate the baby’s temperature, and reduces night awakenings, thus improving the parents’ sleep.
Often, even before the baby is born, the family decides how the baby’s sleep will be organized. Sometimes, parents don’t plan to share a bed with the baby, but after the first week, they swiftly change their minds. The family quickly realizes that sometimes sleeping in the same bed with the baby is the only way everyone can get some sleep.
A time comes when the baby’s sleep becomes stable. The family then decides it’s time for the child to sleep in their own bed.
What is the right approach to move the baby from the parents’ bedroom to their own crib?
The short answer is… there isn’t a ‘right’ approach. There are different techniques that can help children adapt to the change more easily. Use your intuition and choose the one most suitable for your child.
Whatever decision you make, try to implement the change smoothly. Why? Because your child loves sleeping next to you. Initially, the change (to sleep alone) will be difficult for them.
So, how to approach this? In this article, I will talk about different techniques and ideas that you can use to teach your child to sleep in their own bed. Examine all approaches before choosing the one that best aligns with your family’s situation.
Approach 1: “The Traveling Crib”
This approach is amongst the most successful and gentlest methods to transition your baby from sleeping in the parents’ bedroom to a separate bed or room. You can implement this technique if you have a crib equipped with a removable barrier.
Here’s how to apply it:
1. Position the baby’s crib directly next to your bed (“attached” to it). The crib’s barrier should be entirely removed. Ensure that the mattress of the baby’s crib aligns with the level of your bed! The intention here is to make the baby’s crib feel like a natural extension of your bed. Place the child to sleep next to you in the area of the baby’s crib.
If your child is used to cuddling with you during the night, there is a way to further ease the transition. How? Take the sheet from the baby’s bed and let it absorb your scent. For one night, put the baby’s sheet under your shirt while you sleep so it can take on your smell.
2. Once your child has adapted to this sleep arrangement, it’s time for a new change: gently raise the barrier of the baby’s crib. Your child will easily see, hear, and smell you, but your unconscious movements during your sleep won’t wake them up.
3. After your child comfortably sleeps through the night with the crib barrier raised, move the baby’s crib about 20 cm away from your bed. This distance enables you to soothe them effortlessly during the night (if needed).
4. After several peaceful nights, move the baby’s bed as far away from your bed as the available space permits. Many parents choose to keep the baby’s bed in the parents’ room until the child reaches 2 years of age.
5. Finally, move the baby’s crib into the child’s room. If the child sleeps in a separate room, consider getting a baby monitor. This will allow you to quickly tend to your baby’s needs if they wake up during the night. Building trust with your child is crucial – they need to feel confident sleeping peacefully at night, knowing that their mom and dad are close by and available when needed.
Use the child’s bed mainly for sleep, not play. Before you make the transition, ensure that the child feels comfortable in the new bed.
Approach 2: “Creating a Little Distance”
Here are the main steps summarized:
1. Place a mattress on the floor next to your bed. At the usual bedtime, put your baby to sleep on the bed, while you lie down on the additional mattress.
2. When the baby wakes up at night, attend to their needs (for example: soothe them, feed them). Once the child falls asleep, return to the mattress next to your bed.
3. The aim is for your child to get used to sleeping without you on your bed, and when this happens, swap places.
4. Once the child adapts to this sleep organization, move the child to a separate bed in the parents’ bedroom.
5. Finally, move the child’s bed into the child’s room (if this is the sleep arrangement that your family is aiming for).
- Ensure that you adhere to all safe sleep practices!
- You know your baby best. Feel free to adapt the approach to meet your family’s needs.
Approach 3: “Creating a New Family Bed”
A large percentage of children who co-sleep with their parents are comfortable sleeping anywhere, as long as their mom is with them. You can leverage this fact to help your child transition from the parents’ bed to their own room more easily.
If your child is older than ten months and you want them to sleep in their own room, you can try this approach:
1. Place a mattress on the floor in the child’s room.
2. Follow your baby’s usual bedtime routine, but instead of going to sleep together on the parents’ bed, stay and sleep on the new mattress in the child’s room.
3. Remain in the child’s room for at least a few nights, until your child adjusts to the new sleeping conditions in the new room.
4. Move the child from the mattress to their bed, while you continue to sleep on the mattress next to them for several more days.
5. Once the child adjusts to the new sleeping conditions, you can return to the parents’ bedroom.
What is the most common approach parents use to move their child into a separate room? Main disadvantages of this approach.
Many parents undertake the following approach when deciding to move their child to their own room. Bear in mind, this approach has its drawbacks, which we will explore later.
1. They let the child fall asleep in the parents’ room.
2. As soon as the child falls asleep, they carry him to his room and put him to sleep in his own bed. They return to their room and turn on the baby monitor.
3. Whenever the baby wakes up, they visit the child’s room and help him go back to sleep (for example, the mother might nurse him or the father could rock him to soothe him). If this approach proves ineffective, the parents return to their room with the baby and put him back to sleep in their bed. Once the child is in a deep sleep, the parents move him back to his room and bed.
4. When the constant movement between the parents’ room and the child’s room starts to be burdensome, they select a specific time during the night (for example, 4 AM), after which they allow the baby to sleep with them.
What are the key drawbacks of this approach?
Firstly, this method requires parents to move between their bedroom and the child’s room all night. In rare cases, babies adapt quickly to sleeping in their own room, which shortens the duration of the night-time movement. Also, there are children who positively respond to such a drastic change. They start to sleep more soundly at night because they are in a separate bed and the parents’ movements during sleep can’t wake them up.
This approach, however, carries a high risk of forming a habit of frequent night-time awakenings. Why is that?
- On the one hand, this method reinforces “strong” sleep associations, such as rocking, breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, etc., when the baby wakes up at night.
- On the other hand, many studies suggest that placing a deeply asleep child into a new bed can disrupt sleep and make it harder for the child to transition from one sleep cycle to another.
I’ll provide more details on sleep architecture in a separate article. For now, it’s worth noting that everyone wakes up several times during the night (transitioning from one sleep cycle to another), and when there’s no change in the environment in which we fell asleep, we don’t remember these awakenings on the next morning. But what if we fall asleep peacefully on a couch and wake up during the night in our bedroom, dressed in our pajamas? This would cause anxiety and confusion for many of us, much like it does for a child who falls asleep deeply in one place and wakes up in another.
In conclusion, regardless of the approach you choose, try to make the transition smooth. Don’t leave the child crying alone in bed, hoping that at some point he will adapt to the new surroundings. Opt for a “gentle” and gradual approach, thoroughly think through your goals, devise a strategy and a plan that align with your family’s needs.
Finding the Right Sleep Solution
Making the transition from co-sleeping to having your baby sleep independently in their own bed is a unique journey for each family. The right approach varies, and often depends on intuition, flexibility, and an understanding of your child’s individual needs.
If you’re feeling unsure about the right approach or finding the transition more challenging than expected, remember that you don’t have to figure this out alone. As a child sleep consultant, my mission is to help families like yours navigate sleep transitions with confidence and peace. So, feel free to explore my sleep consultation offerings. Together, we can ensure this transition is a smooth and positive experience for both you and your child. I can help provide strategies and solutions tailored to your family’s needs.
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