How To Wean A Baby From Co Sleeping: Tips For Struggling Parents
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.
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.
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.
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 sleepers. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!