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I made the decision to have our children co-sleep with us the minute they came home from the hospital. Not because I subscribe to any particular parenting philosophy, but simply because that’s what my mom did with me. She was a single mom at nineteen living with her grandmother. There was limited space so she had no choice but to have me in the bed with her. We shared a bed until I was probably 7!
I have some of the best memories of snuggling with my mom and feeling safe and secure next to her. Naturally, I wanted to share a similar experience with my children. When they were infants, I didn’t have the heart to send them off to sleep in a lonely cage of a crib while I slumbered away with my husband in a queen size bed. Having them sleep next to me was comforting. I could watch the rise and fall of their chest and know that they were still breathing. When it got really quiet I could listen to the sweet thump thump of their little hearts beating. Nothing felt sweeter than their chubby little hands against my cheek.
But they are old now.
My son is six and although we put him to sleep in his own bed, most nights he sneaks into our room like a stealth ninja to sleep with us. My daughter’s once sweet, soft breathing now sounds like hyenas crying as she snores the night away. Those chubby little hands are far from gentle when they poke me in the eye. My bed is no longer safe and secure as I am assaulted with elbows, knees, and fingers on a nightly basis. Every morning I wake up dangling off the side of the bed as my daughter spreads out horizontally between my husband and I. It’s madness.
They must go!
Even though my son transitioned to his own room three years ago, something clearly isn’t working. I’ve decided to re-transition him in a more structured and planned way. Here are some tips I found useful.
- Prepare their rooms by making it cozy and reflective of their personality. My son’s room was still decked out with Pooh Bear paraphernalia when he started Kindergarten. It felt more like a nursery than a big boy room and he hated being in there. I decided to re-decorate his room with pictures of his favorite super heroes and TV characters. He asked to have family pictures on his wall which made him feel like my husband and I were watching over him. He ended up wanting to hang out in his room more and when night time came, he wasn’t so afraid to be by himself
- Let them know in advance that they will be have to sleep in their own room. This will prepare them for the upcoming change so it’s not such a shock to them. My son’s first night in his own bed was literally the night my daughter came home from the hospital. I blame it on pregnancy brain. Between working full time up until two days before delivery and running a household, figuring out my son’s sleeping arrangements totally slipped my mind. Looking back, he probably felt tossed to the side. Poor kid!
- Transition slowly. If your child still takes a nap, let them take a nap in their room. This will get them use to sleeping in their own bed. If they don’t nap, it’s still a good idea to let them have a ‘rest’ time in their room by themselves. OR Transition in one fell swoop. Dragging out the process can be overwhelming for some children. I know my daughter and based on past behavior, transitioning her a little at a time would make the process more painful. Whether you transition slowly or do it in one fell swoop is completely up to you. You know your child best.
- Celebrate them moving to their own beds and make it a big deal. Set a date and have them count down the days till the big move. You can have them draw pictures or write stories about being a big kid and sleeping in their own rooms. Consider having your child pick out their own bedding and new pajamas to celebrate the move.
- Create a night time routine. Children find security in structure and routine. Consistently following a night time routine makes it easier for children to relax and unwind. A bed time routine makes them more likely to fall asleep AND stay asleep during the night. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. In my house, our routine is Brush.Wash.Read. They brush their teeth, take a bath, and then we read a bedtime story.
- Be consistent about them sleeping in their own bed. This is the hardest part. My son wakes up at all hours with various excuses as to why he MUST sleep in my bed. But I know if I give in even for a night, he will make it a habit. Unless it is a mean thunderstorm or he is REALLY sick, he is sleeping in his own bed. Recently my son started having nightmares. We made dream catchers to trap the bad dreams so that only good dreams would stay. So far he has slept in his room for two weeks! You can find a tutorial for making a dream catcher here.
What are some tips you have for transitioning co-sleepers to their own beds? (Image:Ouef)