Tips on Transitioning from Co-sleeping to Floor Bed
“I am looking for advice on transitioning our two yeard-old from co-sleeping to a floor bed in our room. We night weaned a few months ago and so we are ready to make another change.”
You are not alone in the quest to want to make a change around this age. Most co-sleeping parents chose this path of attachment parenting for a reason, usually because it allows all parties involved to get the most rest. Before jumping into some tips, here is a key principle from our Baby Sleep Book. “One of the best gifts you can give your child is the feeling that bedtime is a happy, peaceful, stress-free time to look forward to every night. You can achieve this goal by sensitively meeting your child’s needs at bedtime and during the night. If a child is pushed into sleep independence before he is ready, he will grow up feeling anxious about sleep and may experience a variety of problems.”
I understand that it does not mean that the family bed does not come without its challenges. When the benefits do not outweigh the stress of the challenges it may be time for a change; and often you will be ready for the change before your darling toddler. Here are some ideas that can help that transition be met with patience and grace.
Set Yourself and Your Toddler Up for Success
It is especially important to set yourself up with lots of grace and acceptance that sleep/space changes are not linear or a quick fix. When transitioning your toddler from co-sleeping to a floor bed, it may be two steps forward, one step back – or one step forward, one step sideways for a while. If it becomes too stressful then simply try again in a couple of months. Be sure you are making these changes for the right reasons. Are you tired of criticism or people telling you “You are spoiling him”? The real question you should be asking yourself is, “Is the current situation working for us?”. Also make sure your toddler is age-appropriate, meaning able to understand certain reasoning skills, like “this is Johnny’s special bed”. For most toddlers that does not start before around 18 months
Make it Fun and Use it as a Teachable Moment
Start playing there on the floor bed during the day. Take in his favorite stuffed animal, toys, and books and have play time in that space. Sing his favorite songs and play his favorite quiet games like peekaboo or reading stories. This can help decrease the apprehensiveness or stress around exploring a new idea. Talk a lot about it and make it into a big deal. Like “Wow, you are so big now you get your very own big-boy bed. Or “This is Johnny’s special place that’s just for you”. Books that show kids in their own space is also a great learning tool when transitioning from co-sleeping to child’s own bed.
Transitioning from Co-sleeping Requires Baby Steps
Start the transition with naps and do not change anything else about your nap routine except the space. Continue to nurse to nap if that is what works for you. Then at bedtime, for the first few nights think about staying down there with him for all or most of the night, which helps your toddler see that this is a safe space.
In the transition from co-sleeping to a floor bed, celebrate small victories. Say OK tonight let’s make it with him down there until midnight.
Making One Change at a Time/Night Weaning
It is wonderful that you got started with one big change (night weaning) and are now adding the next step. Deciding which step to take first can be confusing. Some moms find that creating some space between the two of you at nighttime helps baby sleep longer stretches which can make night weaning more manageable. For others, the opposite is true. Can you say, “chicken or the egg”! It usually takes trial and error to decide which changes are going to work best for your family.
Again, please settle into the idea that change is a process. Would you want to be kicked out of the coziest and loving bed in town? Congrats on investing in this challenging process in a loving way. For more details and guidance on transitioning from co-sleeping, check out The Baby Sleep Book from The Sears Parenting Library.
Martha is the mother of Dr. Bill’s eight children, a registered nurse, a former childbirth educator, a La Leche League leader, and a lactation consultant. Martha is the co-author of 25 parenting books and is a popular lecturer and media guest drawing on her 18 years of breastfeeding experience with her eight children (including Stephen with Down Syndrome and Lauren, her adopted daughter). Martha speaks frequently at national parenting conferences and is noted for her advice on how to handle the most common problems facing today’s mothers with their changing lifestyles. Martha is able to connect with both full-time, stay-at-home mothers and working mothers because she herself has experienced both styles of parenting. Martha takes great pride in referring to herself as a “professional mother” and one of her favorite quips when someone voices their concern about her having eight children in an already populated world is: “The world needs my children.”