Different families have different stands when it comes to the subject of co-sleeping. While experts are saying it is best not to due to the risk of suffocation, on the flip-side, co-sleeping has also been a lifesaver for other parents when done most safely.
There are many benefits to co-sleeping, like being able to respond to your baby’s needs instantly, for example, or allowing breastfeeding mothers the ease of nursing throughout the night without losing too much sleep. Babies who co-sleep also tend to feel more secure and sleep better through the night.
Despite agreeing to it in the beginning, all parents know that co-sleeping cannot last forever. First of all, think about trying to fit the entire family on the bed. Then there’s the physical and emotional toll from the lack of intimacy in the bedroom. And all the fathers say “aye.”
But even if you’ve already been bed-sharing and you’re thinking of making the switch, there isn’t a right or wrong way to do it. You will, of course, have an added advantage if you wean them off your bed while they are younger, especially since they will be more adaptable. Question is, are you committed? Because once you start, you will need to remain firm and stay committed to it. Your bed needs to be off limits after you’ve stopped co-sleeping.
Bed Weaning from Newborn to 18-month-old
They didn’t come up with that term “start them young” for no reason. When babies are younger than 18 months, their sleep habits are still highly adaptable. It will require effort though, to train your infant that there’s is only one sleeping location: in their bassinet or cot and you need to be very consistent about it. Why? Because babies will not be able to differentiate why it is okay to have a nap on your bed and not okay for them to sleep with you at night. Small as they may be, your baby is susceptible to the familiar smells around them. The smell of mother’s milk, for example, or even being able to smell mum nearby brings them comfort. So it is not surprising that some mothers sleep with their baby’s bed sheet for a couple of days just to help ease the transition.
Before starting, you need to make sure that your baby has a safe place to sleep. There should be no blankets, no bumpers and no soft toys that could risk suffocation. Make sure the room is at a comfortable temperature and that it is dark. Some parents choose to ease their babies in by sitting in the room for several nights just so that their baby can sense that they are near. Others hang a toy with white noise to help babies and kids of all ages sleep soundly.
Regardless of your method, teaching your baby to fall asleep independently can take anywhere from a couple of nights to a couple of weeks bearing in mind that the more you relent, the more you will prolong this process. Consistency will help them adapt to the routine faster; besides, baby monitors with video are getting more affordable now. To help them make the association that their bed equals sleep, just remember to be extra attentive to your baby’s nap times and make sure he or she is in their bed before they fall asleep.
Bed Weaning from 18-month-old to 4-year-old
When they are toddlers and can communicate, it is much better to preempt them about weaning them off your bed. In doing so, it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. You can always play up that they are growing up so well that it is time for them to get a “big kid” room; in other words, their very own personal space. Dropping the bomb is probably not the best method to use in this case, so remember to ease them into the idea slowly with a lot of encouragement and positivity. If another baby is on the way, then you will need to transition your child way earlier to avoid the thought of being replaced or kicked out of the room by the new baby.
Some tips for settling your toddler for the night:
- Establish a consistent winding down routine every night like reading a favourite book.
- Reinforce this with a lot of cuddle time and try not to rush it too much.
You can consider rooming in with them a couple of night with a mattress on the floor just to help them transition, or you can also gradually stay for shorter amounts of time. Doing it cold-turkey could also work, you just need to remember to remain consistent throughout and put your foot down on how you to respond if they wake up in the night. Know that you might need to sacrifice a couple of sleepless nights, but be firm about leaving them in their bed to settle on their own after reassuring them.
Remember not to give in even if there are tears. If they are not feeling so well, room-in with them. If you’ve been very consistent from start to finish, with time, they will see no way around it and slowly get used to it.
Bed Weaning your Preschooler
If you’ve left bed weaning to this late, then expect there will be a lot of drama moving them into their bed, let alone their own room. Reasoning with them might be your only option while reassuring them that even if they move to sleep in their own space, there will still be plenty of love and attention when they are awake. He or she will benefit from a lot of positive reinforcements.
Apply the same winding-down times as before, making sure not to waver and to remain consistent at all times. Routine and consistency will help them to feel more secure in their own rooms. Some might feel scared about sleeping on their own, and parents can help by continually reassuring that they are nearby. You can use small rewards as an incentive, but always remember to tie it back to how well they have managed to sleep independently.
It would be good to take it up with the family doctor in extreme cases where your child is unable to fall asleep on his or her own to rule out other underlying possibilities.
To sum it up
- Agree on what to do when deciding to bed wean and stick to it.
- Ensure your child’s sleeping area is safe.
- Preempt your child and help them to wind-down with a consistent bed routine.
- Sit in the same room or room-in with them if you have to
- Leave the room before your child falls asleep.
- If they wake up during the night, got to their room to reassure them, then leave them there to settle down on their own.
Remember, consistency, consistency, and a strong heart. While it hurts to hear your child cry and ask for you, know that bed-weaning is beneficial for both parties and that you are teaching them independence. Good luck and stay firm, before you know it you and your husband will get the whole bed back to yourselves.