Co-sleeping has its benefits including a closer bond between parents and their children, as well as better performance in school and a greater sense of independence in later years. But there comes a time when parents must reclaim their matrimonial beds and encourage their toddler to sleep in his or her own bed.
Emphasis must be made first that co-sleeping isn’t for every parent and child due to the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But for parents who decide to go the co-sleeping route, there are two options – first, share a bedroom; and second, share a bed. Sharing a bedroom is the more common option for babies less than a year old; the baby sleeps in his or her crib while the parents sleep in their bed. Sharing a bed becomes more feasible when a child reaches the one-year mark.
When your child becomes a toddler, however, co-sleeping isn’t as appealing as it sounds for many reasons. Children have a way of taking over a bed, even when it’s the largest Sleep Number, and taking over their parents’ nighttime activities. Parents will then consider moving their toddlers to their own beds and bedrooms, and here’s how you can do it, if you have this issue.
Introduce Structure and Stick to It
Getting your toddlers to their own beds requires careful planning, as well as patience and perseverance. You have to make a plan and stick with it day in, day out even when you aren’t feeling up to it or your kids are throwing a tantrum about it. You should talk with your toddlers in a way that they can understand why they have to sleep in their own bedrooms and how they can do it.
Be consistent instead of letting them have their way, such as when you let them sleep in your bed “just for tonight” or “just for five minutes more”. You should expect resistance but stick to the plan and you will wear it down soon enough.
What kind of plan can you introduce? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the four B’s of bedtime – bath, brush teeth, books, and bedtime. The structure provides toddlers with a sense of the familiar that will contribute to their willingness to sleep in their own beds.
Be sure to start as early as possible in the evening, at least an hour before the actual bedtime hour. This way, you will have leeway for resistance, such as when the kids refuse to take a bath and brush their teeth unless they are allowed to sleep on your bed for an hour first.
Consider the Type of Kids You Have
Toddlers who should be weaned off their parents’ bed generally fall into two categories. First, the children who sleep in their own beds but come to their parents’ bed during the night for reasons like a nightmare. Here’s what you can do:
- Get up from your bed, hold the child’s hand, and walk him back to his bedroom.
- Tuck him in again, kiss him good night, and walk back to your bedroom.
- Avoid getting into lengthy conversations so that both of you can go back to the business of sleeping. Instead, give no reaction, whether it’s of exasperation or frustration; keep your cool because otherwise you’re playing into your child’s hands.
Be prepared to do these steps as many times as possible during the night because your child will test your willingness to play along. In the morning, talk to your child about what happened during the night and explain that it will happen again, if he continues to get up and go to your bed. Set expectations, too, and give small rewards to reinforce the desired behavior.
Second, the children who have been sleeping in their parents’ bed since they were one year old. The steps are different but the end result should be the same.
- Let your child sleep in his bed in his bedroom while you, a parent, sleep on the floor next to his bed. Reassure him that you will be right beside him and you will check up on him.
- Make the transition from sleeping on the floor to sitting on a chair until he falls asleep.
- Stand by the door until he becomes sleepy and then close the door when he falls asleep.
The goal here is that you are gradually acclimatizing your child to your decreasing presence in his room. You may want to reassure him that you will be checking up on him from time to time, too. You are basically building up his confidence in sleeping in his room, whether it’s for his nap time or his bedtime.
Toddlers look to their parents for their proper behavior and it applies to bedtime routines, too. You, the parents, should become role models in good bedtime habits. The more toddlers see that you are disciplined and responsible in your attitude toward bedtime, the less likely they will put up resistance to your efforts to wean them from your bed, so to speak.