How to Transition to a Bed from Co-sleeping
I like cosleeping but just wonder at what age should my child start transitioning to a bed? And how can I help him make this transition? My four-year-old is still in our bed and I’m ready to transition him out, but he isn’t!
Tips for Transitioning Child to a “Big Kid Bed”
Here are some tips from the Sears’ family experience of transitioning five children from our bed into a “big kid bed.” As you mentioned, it’s usual for mothers to be ready for this transition before their child.
What’s the right time to stop co-sleeping and start transitioning to a bed?
A clue that it’s time to transition is when you do not look forward to going to sleep because it is work rather than rest, and this may especially be the case if your child is still “breastsleeping”. Take this as a realistic prompt that your need to get a better night’s sleep now takes priority over your child’s “want” to sleep in your bed. My motto is: “If you resent it, change it.” Helping your child wean from your bed will be part of the weaning from your breast at night, and it may help to have that part happen first. Explain to him that nursing will be only “when the sun goes down/lights go off” and then again “when the sun comes up”.
What type of bed will work the best?
For our first step, we would put a futon or mattress on the floor next to our bed. I would snuggle next to our child there and ease away once he was fully asleep, if I didn’t doze off myself. I made this time enjoyable by reading stories and having “one last nurse” and then a lullaby and a prayer. Consider letting your son pick out his own “big boy bed” – kids are more likely to want to use a bed they choose. Let him nap in his new bed so he learns that his own bed is a comfy and safe place to be.
After you transition your child from your room into his own, be prepared to take two steps forward and one step back and be ready to back off and try again in a few weeks if your child is not ready. Even after he seems settled there, expect an occasional “I miss Mom” visit to your bed. We have found that an open-door policy is best: let your child know he can come into your room quietly and find his way to that comfy place right next to your bed.
As you try these transition techniques, keep in mind that you’re making a valuable life-long investment. You’re teaching your child to grow up with a healthy sleep attitude – that sleep is a pleasant state to enter and a fearless state to remain in.
Martha Sears, RN
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.”