As a mom of 2, I know first-hand how incredible it is to snuggle with a sleeping child. I often find myself thinking how I can’t wait for my kids to wake up just so I can have some snuggles with them because they look so sweet and peaceful when they are asleep (despite whatever antics they did earlier that day). Snuggling next to a sleeping baby is down-right intoxicating! So, I completely understand the appeal of bed-sharing. If you love bed-sharing with your children and everyone is happy and well-rested as a result, then this article is NOT for you. Most of the bed-sharing parents who contact me are doing so out of necessity…for survival…not because they love it.
In reality, bed-sharing can be much less romantic. Children move around A LOT during sleep. They are also incredibly noisy sleepers. They have no respect for your personal space, or the fact that you’re trying to get a little sleep, or the fact that you don’t like being woken up by having a tiny finger jammed up your nose.
Many parents (I would dare say most parents) that contact me for a private sleep consultation have decided it is time to reclaim their bed because the romance of sleeping next to their little one has long worn off, and they are now operating in a chronically sleep deprived state. The problem is, by that time their child has gotten fairly accustomed to sleeping next to them and seemingly won’t sleep any other way.
So if you’re in the “bed-sharing for survival, but really sleep-deprived” situation and are looking for a way to get your baby sleeping in their own room, allow me to offer up some helpful hints.
First off, prepare yourself for resistance. Nobody reacts well to changes in their sleep routine (not even you)! Young children are especially attached to the routines they are used to; after all, it is literally all they have ever known, so there is definitely going to be some push-back.
For infants, just keep in mind that you are teaching them something new: how to sleep alone. Just like introducing them to a new babysitter, this experience will be uncomfortable at first, but the more they do it, the easier it will become. Be patient with them the first few times you put them to sleep in their own bed. Provide occasional comfort and reassurance to help them ease into their new sleep environment, and know that with more time and practice they will get used to the changes.
If your little one is able to climb out of their bed, they’ll probably make a few late-night trips into your room and attempt to climb back into bed with you. When this happens, don’t get upset. Keep your cool and walk them back into their room. Explain that they’re not allowed to sleep in your bed and let them know what the consequence will be if they do it again. (Side note: a great consequence for this is closing their bedroom door for a minute or two if they leave their room. I’ve used this one myself and it can be super effective.)
For toddlers and preschoolers, you may want to consider setting up a reward program for good nights spent in their own bed. A treat or a sticker on the calendar can be a great incentive, but keep the time window short. Kids have a hard time understanding rewards if they’re expected to maintain a behavior for a full week, so a daily reward usually works best. Giving young children a sense of pride and accomplishment helps them take ownership over the process and can help them love their own beds even quicker!
The other way to soften the blow of moving your little one into their own room is to stay in their room with them for a few nights while they’re making the change. This can be done for infants, toddlers and preschoolers to ease them into the transition of sleeping alone. Don’t rock them to sleep or engage with them while they’re drifting off, as this can create an unintended sleep association, but feel free to sit in a chair while they’re falling asleep so they can see that you’re there, and gradually start working your way out earlier and earlier.
Again, there’s probably still going to be a little bit of crying, but once your child gets the hang of sleeping in their own room, your whole family can look forward to much more restful nights, and far fewer wake ups from an unintentional kick to the face.
While I hope you find these tips helpful, the process of changing sleep habits for infants and young children can be complicated. There are a lot of factors that can affect sleep and it is not always a quick fix. If you would like to speak with a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant to get some specific advice for your child, please use the link below to book a FREE evaluation call!