Co-sleeping can overcome a lot of sleep-related issues you can encounter as a new parent. For breastfeeding Moms especially it can be a real lifesaver!
For a new mother, nothing beats that feeling of sleeping next to your new baby every night knowing they are warm, safe, and cuddled up next to your body.
But eventually, those days will end and it will be time to wean off co-sleeping and transition to the crib or bed.
Breaking a co-sleeping routine can be one of the most difficult transitions you and your baby will have to fight through. So we have prepared the following guide so you know how to stop cosleeping and can plan accordingly.
When to Stop Co-Sleeping
You can co-sleep for as long as you feel comfortable doing so. But you must be mindful that the more established the routine the more difficult it will be to transition to their crib, or bed.
The process doesn’t change that much, but your ability to communicate, and the need to stand your ground does!
- 0 to 18 months – Highly adaptable and able to build new familiarity quickly.
- 18 months to 4 years old – Easier to communicate at this age but harder to convince! Your toddler is becoming a big kid and big kids sleep in their own bed. Expect resistance…
- 5 years plus – You are breaking very established sleep habits and a change like this could be a bigger problem that requires more persistence. Your child will better understand incentives, and substitutes by this age so use all you can to convince them this is a change worth pursuing.
How To Stop Co-Sleeping With A Toddler
Before you get started with our six-point preparation, pick a date for you to start transitioning your little one from co-sleeping to crib. This process will be an inconvenience to your routine and it is easy to put off for weeks, and months.
All the planning in the world will not help you or your child if you don’t start. So set yourself a date and then make sure you stick to it.
1. Come Up With A Plan
Start by deciding when is the right time to begin the transition to the crib or bed.
If there are big milestones being reached, such as a bout of teething or a growth spurt, your baby will likely be uncomfortable and more clingy with you which will make the change harder.
You also want to avoid stress for yourself. If you have a big trip you are preparing for, or if the holidays are rolling around and you are the family host, you likely have a lot on your plate. You probably do not want to add “sleep training the baby” to your to-do list.
Next, decide how you want to transition your kid. Will you employ the cold turkey method? Or are you going to try a more gradual approach?
Knowing your game plan will help you to keep you on track and stick to your guns to ensure success.
Finally, be on the same page with your spouse.
By supporting each other and being able and willing to jump in when needed, you can be sure that you will both be persistent in your plan and that you have support from each other.
2. Prepare Your Baby’s Room
Creating a friendly, comfortable environment in your baby’s new room will help her to sleep better and enjoy her own space.
Your main priorities should be to keep the room at a comfortable temperature and make sure the light and noise levels are optimal for helping your baby sleep.
Blue and yellow lights mess with your circadian rhythm and hormone levels, which can keep you awake or have you waking more frequently during the night.
Your body uses darkness to determine that it is night, which then causes the release of the hormone melatonin, which helps you to sleep.
If there is too much light in your baby’s room, she will likely not be able to sleep well, and her sleep schedule may be a bit off, causing her to stay up later due to light shining and waking early with the sunrise.
Putting up thick, blackout curtains can help your baby sleep better.
Silence can also be a sleep killer. Trying to fall asleep in total silence is difficult since every little noise and bump in your home will catch your attention and sabotage your sleep efforts.
A source of white noise can help overcome this. The sounds waves of white noise are optimal for your brain to help you fall into a gentle sleep.
Last of all, you will want to have a baby monitor in the room so you can still keep a close eye on your infant and be ready if they need you. We have some helpful articles on baby monitors below:
3. Room Sharing With Your Baby
Moving to an unfamiliar place may leave your baby feeling uneasy. There are new smells and sights, and without you next to her, she may feel a bit cold or scared if they are not used to it.
The idea here is to use room sharing as a stepping stone from bed-sharing to independent sleep. This allows you to bridge the gap between the two and gently sever that parent-child attachment in a way that is more comfortable and gradual.
It can be as easy as throwing a cheap air mattress on the floor with a sleeping bag. This will help her get used to the newness of the room with the comfort of knowing that you are right there next to her.
This is not the most comfortable scenario but you only want to do this for a week or two anyway. As soon as your child is more comfortable start to wean yourself away from the room.
It is best to avoid co-sleeping while in your baby’s room so they do not start this change by confusing their bed with a family bed.
4. Teach Your Baby To Fall Asleep On Their Own
One of the biggest obstacles in transitioning a child to their own bed is a well-entrenched sleep association that involves the parents being present.
Right from birth parents are conditioned to run in and comfort their baby when they hear their cries. Often rocking them, or giving them a pacifier, to help their children fall back to sleep.
The best way to set yourself up for success is to never introduce a sleep association (such as rocking, nursing, or pacifying until your baby is asleep). Easier said than done…
Instead, you can try leaving the room when your baby is drowsy so that she can fall asleep on her own. This allows her to know how to put herself back to sleep during the night as well.
Unfortunately, this is often not possible. Parents often introduce sleep associations without even realizing it. So the real trick is to identify what that is and take steps to wean your child away from it.
Instead of a sleep association you can create a bedtime routine. This can include baths, reading time, and singing a bedtime song depending on their age.
By creating a bedtime routine, your baby will begin to prepare for sleep, knowing that it is coming. She will start to settle down, and she will become drowsy so that you can leave her while she is still awake and she will drift off on her own.
If you have a toddler that is already talking and somewhat conversational then there are some great creative tips in the short video below:
5. Be Patient And Consistent
As you have probably already discovered through the various stages of your child’s growth, it is easy to break down and lose all willpower at the sound of your crying child.
While you do not want to ignore your child and cause her to become so upset that she makes herself sick, there does need to be a measure of resilience on your part to allow her to cry without immediately running into the room.
How your child progresses through each development stage can often depend on your resolve in helping them through it. When you cave, you prolong the process in most cases.
You know your child better than anyone. You know her cries: when she is truly upset and when she merely wants your attention.
Deciphering those cries will help you remain consistent in your plan to break her from co-sleeping while still allowing her to know that you are there, ready to tend to her needs.
6. The Parent’s Bed is Off Limits
The older your child is when you attempt this transition the more likely they are to wander over in the middle of the night and climb in.
You will need to set boundaries for at least a few months until the new habit is well established and not muddy the waters during the day or night. A blanket rule of the parental bed being off-limits will help get over this hump.
Even for naps and general play through the day.
When to Seek Help
As with anything involving young children your experience will depend a lot on how they handle the change. You may feel like you need some additional help or guidance along the way.
You can take a sleep training course that will provide lots of guidance and answer any questions you may have while you navigate this challenging time.
Our two sleep specialist recommendations are:
- The Sleep Lady – Run by Kim West, they offer sleep solutions through a course and phone consultations to ensure your plan is sound and progress is reviewed. It is a very supportive approach as your sleep coach.
- The Sleep Sense – You have the option for lower-cost access to the e-books, video programs, and you can upgrade to personalized help if you need it.
If you need more help than the standard baby sleep coaching then you can also speak to your pediatrician.
Eventually your bedsharing days will need to come to an end and starting a new routine can be stressful for both parents and baby alike. But some planning can help you be prepared from the get-go and help you feel confident enough to follow through.
I know how hard it can be to stop cosleeping with your little one. My daughter and I did for some time before she finally transitioned to a toddler bed. No one told me how hard it would be and I was totally unprepared.
We hope that this article has helped you be better equipped than I was and that the transition to stop cosleeping will be a smooth one.
Staying consistent and resilient in your plan will allow you to help your children to the next stage of their sleep journey.
More On Co-Sleeping
If you are not yet ready to stop co-sleeping but are looking for a safer way to do it you can use a specially designed in bed co-sleeper.
This small device can create a barrier and safe place for your baby and prevent a lot of potential hazards associated with cosleeping from a young age.
We have also done a detailed comparison on two of the most popular baby loungers on the market that can sometimes be used for co-sleeping. Check out the Snuggle Me Organic Vs the Dock-a-Tot.
If you are not sure what the differences are between co-sleepers and bassinets then check out our full comparison here.