How To Wean A Baby From Co Sleeping: Tips For Struggling Parents

  • 17 tips from experts for weaning your baby from co-sleeping
  • These tips can help make the transition easier for your baby
  • Learn to transform your baby’s room into a great place to sleep
  • Bonus video: Weaning a breastfeeding baby/toddler

Has your little one been sleeping in the same bed or in the same room as you for a while?

Do you feel like it might be time to transition your child to a separate sleeping environment?

Are you having trouble encouraging your baby or toddler to try sleeping alone?

Or are you having some difficulties letting go of the current sleeping arrangements yourself?

There a lot of situations that might arise from a co sleeping environment, and one of those is the difficulty weaning baby from co sleeping when the time comes. Some babies and toddlers simply aren’t willing to give up their co sleeping arrangement even when it’s been too long, and you may find yourself dealing with a fussy child who isn’t ready to transition when you are.

If you find yourself facing this problem, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, you’ll learn tips on how to wean a baby from co sleeping from healthcare professionals as well as parents and caregivers just like you. You’ll learn what works, what doesn’t, and what to expect when you face this important transition in your child’s life.

Whether you’re looking for tips on how to handle this change with a toddler or you’re looking for suggestions that can help you with a younger baby or infant, we hope to have you covered below. Many of our suggestions work no matter what age or stage your child might have reached, but some of them are specific to certain points in your baby’s life.

No matter what you’re looking to accomplish, however, you’re sure to find some suggestions that will work well for you and help you with your needs.

To discover 17 of the best tips for shifting your baby to his or her own separate sleeping arrangement, read on!

17 Expert Tips for Weaning Off Co Sleeping

1. Talk to your baby, if he or she is old enough. 

Toddlers should have no trouble understanding as long as you speak to them on their level. While you may not be able to speak as frankly to a toddler as you would to an older child, you can still explain that it’s time for your child to sleep in a “big kid” bed and have his or her own room.

  • If your baby is younger than a toddler, don’t hesitate to explain thing even if you don’t think your child will totally understand. You may be surprised at how much your baby does follow when you talk it out with him or her. If nothing else, be sure to use a soothing tone when talking to your child so you can convey that nothing bad is happening.

2. Try sleeping in your baby’s room—just for a little while. 

When you first put your baby or toddler in another room, you may want to try sticking around for a couple of nights just so that feeling of unfamiliarity wears off a little quicker. Your presence in the room is sure to help your baby feel more at ease as he or she falls asleep. However, take care not to overstay your welcome and start co sleeping all the time in your child’s room, as this will defeat the purpose entirely.

  • Make sure you don’t sleep in the same bed with your baby even for a couple of nights. If you want to sleep in the same room as your child for a short time, set up a mattress or sleeping bag for yourself on the floor. This will make the transition a little easier for both of you when the time comes.

3. Be as stern and strict as you can, within reason. 

This absolutely does not mean yelling at your baby or punishing your child for being nervous about the transition—you should never do this! However, it does mean that you need to hold your ground and remain sturdy and confident throughout the whole process. If you start to waver or let your baby see that you’re feeling unsure about the transition, your child will pick up on that and may become even more anxious about the change over time.

  • In the same way, you should make sure you don’t falter on any schedules or timelines you may have put together. For example, if you’ve decided that your child should be at the second stage of this transition within two weeks, don’t push that date back. Stick to your plan for best results.

4. Practice slowly backing out of the room as your baby falls asleep. 

Some parents and caregivers refer to this as “the shuffle,” and it’s been working well for generations of co sleep fans. To do this, put your child to bed in his or her own room in an appropriate bed. Tell your baby goodnight, then stand next to the crib or bed as he or she is falling asleep. While your baby is still somewhat awake, start moving toward the door.

weaning co sleeping toddler
  • The idea is that you should be able to leave the room before your child fully falls asleep so that he or she will get used to the idea of going to bed without anyone standing in the room. You may need to start slowly with this and then progress further with time, but if you manage it correctly, you should be able to simply put your baby to bed and say goodnight without any fuss in no time.

5. Give your baby a great transitional item to help.

Your child may need something to help comfort and self-soothe him or her when you’re not in the room, and that’s okay. Depending on the age and developmental stage of your baby, this may be one of many things. For example, if your child is a toddler, there’s no reason why you can’t offer a new blanket or a stuffed toy to help ease this challenging time. Be wary of giving a pacifier for this, however, as it may end up doing more harm than good in the long run.

  • If you’re moving a younger baby to a separate sleeping arrangement, be careful not to give a transitional item that may end up being harmful or posing a health risk to your baby. Stuffed toys and blankets should stay out of the crib or bed with your child until he or she is at least six months old, and in some cases, even older than this. Ask your child’s pediatrician if you’re unsure what to offer as far as comfort items are concerned.

6. Pick the right kind of bed for your baby’s needs—and wants. 

Your baby should always be sleeping on a surface that’s safe and comfortable for him or her depending on age, size, and developmental stage. This means that if your child is still an infant, you need to be putting him or her to bed in a crib, bassinet, or cot that is safe for infant use. You’ll need to choose something that’s firm and doesn’t have a lot of extra blankets or anything that could get in the way of your child’s breathing at night.

  • On the other hand, if your child is a toddler, you should choose a bed that’s large enough for your baby but still safe enough for nightly use. A toddler bed or cot is the best option, but you can also use a twin-sized adult bed as long as you’re willing to make some modifications to ensure your child’s safety. For example, you may need to push one side against the wall and put a bed rail on the other side to prevent your child from falling out of bed throughout the night.

7. Help your baby feel comfortable in his or her own bed. 

While part of this might include a good transitional item or spending a couple of nights in your child’s room, there’s more to it than just that, too. You can read your child books about children who have learned to sleep on their own or let them watch TV shows and specials on the same topic. You might even want to set up a little role play if your baby is old enough and have him or her “put you to bed” in your room instead. There are many different ways you can work on helping you child feel comfortable in a new space.

  • Don’t forget to let your child practice lying in the new bed before bedtime rolls around. You might even start by just putting your baby down for a nap in the new bed and new room without any obligation to sleep there at night. This can help your child ease into the new territory slowly rather than feeling shocked by a sudden change.

8. Help your baby feel confident. 

One of the best ways you can do this is to remind your baby every step of the way that he or she is doing a great job and is going to be a big kid when this transition is complete. Of course, if your baby is an infant, he or she may not fully understand this. However, it’s important to keep smiling and showing your child that you’re proud at every step of the process so he or she will understand as much as possible and form more confidence over time.

  • If you notice your child faltering at one step of the process, make sure you help build up his or her confidence before trying to move on. For example, if you’ve gotten to the point of sleeping in your child’s room with him or her but you can’t seem to get away at night, remind your little one of how many big kids out there sleep without a parent in the room all night long. You may be able to point to an older child in the family who does the same thing, and this can instill confidence in your little one.

9. Understand the right time to start weaning your baby from co sleeping.

Realize that this time may be different for each baby, and even if you had a previous child who weaned from co sleeping at 6 months, your next child may not be ready for this process to be complete until a year or even later. Each baby is an individual, and each situation is different. However, if you haven’t started moving your baby from co sleeping or bed sharing by age one, you may want to get started around this time just so it doesn’t become more challenging later on.

co sleeping and weaning
  • With that said, however, some families continue to co sleep until kindergarten with no ill effects. In some rare instances, families may continue co sleeping with their children until puberty. However, doing this may cause more issues that you’ll want to consider before making this type of decision.
  • Remember, too, that you should always speak to your partner about co sleeping to determine whether or not the time is right to stop this arrangement. If your partner is no longer on board with co sleeping, then it’s time to start transitioning your baby to a separate room. Both parents or caregivers sharing the bed space need to agree to co sleep for it to work well and be safe for everyone involved.
  • There are other situations that may lead you to decide it’s time to stop co sleeping. If you find out you’re expecting another child, you’ll want to start this transition as soon as possible so it will be complete by the time the new baby comes. If you find that you or your partner are no longer getting enough sleep at night—or that your baby isn’t—then you’ll need to change the sleeping setup too.

10. Try night nursing weaning first. 

Your baby should be able to sleep through the night without needing a nursing session before you start working on those separate sleeping arrangements. If your baby is still going to need to be nursed during the night, it doesn’t make much sense to move him or her to another room that you’re going to need to travel to several times to offer a breast or bottle. Of course, there are some circumstances in which this will have to happen anyway, but if you can help it, wait until your baby is weaned from nightly nursing before you move to the co sleeping situation.

  • It’s also a good idea to ensure that your baby is established as sleeping through the night without needing a meal or snack before you immediately shift gears into weaning from co sleeping. Give your child a little time to adjust to the first new change in his or her life before you add another one, provided you have the time to do so.

11. Get your baby involved in decorating his or her new room. 

If your child is old enough, you may want to ask him or her to help you pick some new items for the space. This can help your little one get excited about setting up a new place that is all for him or her, and it may also give you something to help encourage your child to sleep in the new room when the time comes. (“Wouldn’t you like to sleep under those new sheets you helped me pick out?”)

  • Of course, if you let your baby choose everything that goes into his or her room, you’re going to end up with something that looks a little silly. You can narrow down the options yourself and then just let your child choose between two or three options. For example, pick two different blankets for the bed that will match the colors in your little one’s room. Then just ask him or her which one he or she likes best. Try not to overwhelm your child with too many choices, because it’s hard for young toddlers to decide between more than three options at once.​​​​

12. Let your baby’s room be place where fun things happen, not just sleep. 

This may mean allowing your child to play in the room during the day or even setting up a permanent corner of the room for playtime. The idea is to help your child feel as though his or her room is a fun, safe place to be. You don’t want your baby only associating the space with a feeling of separation anxiety, and you probably also don’t want to think of your child’s room only as a place where your little one is sad or nervous at night.

  • You might also be able to help your child’s room become a fun place by setting aside some one-on-one time with your little one in the room. This may mean joining your child for play on the floor, but it could also mean reading stories together for a half hour each day while sitting in the bed with your child or even watching a favorite TV show together in the room. Whatever works for you, make sure you and your baby have a little time together to have fun in the new room well before bedtime.

13. Start a nightly routine and don’t deviate from it. 

Nothing helps a baby make changes better than a nightly routine. While you should already have one in place as it is, when it comes time to transition your child to a separate sleeping arrangement, you’ll need to be sure you’ve got a solid routine that will not be changing. It may be best to start moving some parts of the routine to your baby’s new room before you make the final step toward a complete transition to the new space.

 weaning co sleeping toddler
  • For example, brush your baby’s teeth and then take him or her to the new room to change into PJs rather than doing this in your shared room. Even if you’re going to take your baby back to co sleep for a little while longer, this can help your child start to associate the new room with sleeping, too. You may want to add more steps every couple of days, including a bedtime story or lullaby, prayers if you choose to incorporate them into your routine, and any other steps that can take place in your child’s new room before bedtime.

14. Try not to invite your baby into your bed while transitioning unless absolutely necessary. 

Once you begin the process of putting your child in his or her own bed, your baby is going to come up with many reasons to want to come back and sleep in the bed with you. If your baby is still very young, he or she may not communicate these reasons, but will still likely cry for you throughout the night. However, if your child is older and can talk to you, he or she might come to your room asking to sleep in the bed with you because of bad weather, nightmares, or just feeling scared during the night.

  • As hard as it might be to say no, don’t let your child back in the bed with you if this happens. It’s far better to calmly walk your child back to his or her room and put your little one back to bed if this should occur. If you can’t get your child to calm down simply by doing this, you can stay in the room until he or she is falling asleep and then “shuffle” your way back to your room. Repeat this process as needed until your child realizes you’re not going to continue co sleeping under any circumstances.

15. Be calm, confident, and strong yourself. 

Your baby will definitely pick up on your feelings and emotions throughout this process. While it may be difficult for you to deal with the feelings of letting go that may come from your child’s weaning to separate sleeping, try not to let your little one see or sense these feelings. It’s fine to let them out when your baby isn’t around, but for the sake of your child’s progress, try to stay strong as much as possible.

  • If you feel discouraged by your child’s lack of progress, don’t give up! Your baby will definitely end up sleeping in his or her own separate sleeping space eventually, but you may need to have a little bit more patience to help your child get to that point. Remain calm and don’t be afraid to step aside, let your partner handle things for a moment, and take a few deep breaths to gather yourself. It’s important not to lose your temper or your patience with your child and to always be upbeat about the situation to help encourage your little one to do the best he or she can.

16. Start with a separate sleeping arrangement in your room if necessary.

Many families have had great success transitioning children from bed sharing to room sharing before separate sleeping altogether. This may mean moving your furniture around so you can fit a crib, cot, bassinet, or toddler bed in your room along with your own adult bed. Setting up your child’s separate sleeping surface without moving it to another room altogether can be a great way to encourage this shift from co sleeping to independent sleeping.

  • If you choose to do this, remember that you will also need to start being a little firmer with your child in terms of bed sharing even during this room sharing step. If your baby wakes up and wants to get into the bed with you, be sure to make it clear that he or she is safe and will be okay staying in the separate bed just a few steps away from your bed. This will give your child a good start toward feeling comfortable in another room altogether when the time comes.

17. Celebrate every stage! This is probably the most important tip we can suggest. 

While all the others will definitely help you along the way, making sure to celebrate your baby’s or toddler’s accomplishments and milestones is a crucial step toward helping your child succeed at any part of the growing up process—including weaning from co sleeping. Your baby will be happy to make you happy, and your toddler will be excited to be rewarded with some type of positive reinforcement.

  • Don’t forget to encourage your child to continue sleeping in a separate room when he or she does so for the first night without asking to come to the bed with you. Make a big to-do about it and praise your child for being a “big kid.” You may even want to give your little one a small present such as a new toy, book, or even a favorite sweet treat to show your child that you’re very proud and happy with his or her achievement.

Conclusion

We hope you’ve learned a little bit about co sleeping and weaning your baby from it. We understand that this can be a challenging time for you and your little one and that you may need all the help you can get. While there are many different strategies you may want to try to figure out your best chance for success at transitioning your baby from co sleeping to his or her own bed or room, the tips listed above should help you get a better idea of what to expect, how to handle hurdles you may encounter, and how to come prepared for the situation.

how to break co sleeping with infants

Weaning co sleeping toddler or baby can be difficult for everyone involved, so don’t forget to give yourself, your partner, and your little one all time to be quiet as well as time to have fun together during this challenging part of growing up. You don’t want your baby to associate all of your time together with sleepless nights and separation anxiety, and you also don’t want to feel too stressed or overwhelmed by a baby who is always fussy, either. Take it slow, be patient, and remember that your baby will eventually transition to his or her own sleeping arrangement eventually, even if it takes a little longer than you’d expected.

If you have any further concerns or questions, don’t forget to speak to your child’s pediatrician about breaking the co sleeping habit. Your baby’s doctor should be able to provide plenty of information to help you figure out the best way to make this transition with regards to your own child’s behavior and personality, as well as his or her individual needs. Each baby is different and will handle this change differently, so be ready to change tactics if one strategy doesn’t work as well as you had hoped.

Last but not least, if all else fails, don’t forget that many parents and caregivers have had success with the “cry it out” method. While you may not want to go this route from the beginning, if nothing else seems to be working, you may just need to give your baby a couple of restless nights to get used to the new sleeping setup. Talk to your child’s pediatrician if you feel like this is your only remaining option.

With the right game plan and tips to help you get started, you should be well on your way to separate sleeping in no time!

BONUS VIDEO

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