There are many developmental milestones and transitioning events your child will experience in his or her childhood. Several are major milestones: crawling, walking, running. Others will seem minor: picking up a raisin, throwing a ball, scribbling. If you are transitioning your baby to a sippy cup or your toddler to underwear, then you know how hard it can be to help your child adjust to the necessary change. Now imagine if you have been co-sleeping and have decided it is time for your child to sleep on his or her own. What do you do? How will you decide when and how? I want to help you make your child’s transitioning easier.
The hardest job is to decide when, which is a question you need to answer on your own. When you have concluded it is time, I want to assist you in the process of transitioning. Here are some things to keep in mind during this major event:
- Timing is Important. Begin this event when you can afford some sleepless nights. Sleeping alone and in his or her own bed is new to your child and it’s common for him or her to protest the change by crying. Crying or whining may be the only way your child can express dislike for the difference in sleeping arrangements. You both can get through it, though.
Give yourself the time to make this happen without it affecting your ability to function. Remember that your child can only handle one major event at a time. Do not decide to stop co-sleeping if your child is currently experiencing another change. This will be stressful for him or her and may make the co-sleeping transition more difficult.
- Consistency. Remember that consistency is the key to success with everything. When you decide it is time to stop co-sleeping, make that the end. Do not give in and make co-sleeping an activity you do when it is convenient for you, as it will confuse your child. This is new for him or her, so it might get challenging before you see the progress.
- Lovey. Try to ease the emotional stress on your child related to being apart from you at bedtime. Some children who are transitioning into their own beds respond better when given a special blanket or toy. We call that special item a “lovey.” You don’t need to spend a lot of money on it; I recommend cutting an old t-shirt into a small blanket. The old t-shirt is perfect because it is soft, small, and smells like you. The new lovey will give your child some security and safety as it reminds him or her of you.
- Heads Up. Like with everything we do as parents, there are things we prepare for without including our children in that planning. Give your child enough notice before the change begins. Talk about the independence and pros that come with sleeping on your own to motivate your child before the change. Help foster the change by using positive words and emotions.
- Small Steps. If your child has difficulty adjusting to change, make this a gradual event. Begin by moving your child’s bed into your room to provide security. As your child starts sleeping through the night regularly in his or her bed, move it back into his or her bedroom.
Remember, you can do this! It just takes a little bit of planning, patience, and consistency.