After 9 long months of waiting to meet your new baby, 9 months of her cozy and warm in your belly, listening to your heartbeat and breathing, it is only natural that many parents begin their parenthood co-sleeping with their baby, especially when you are also breastfeeding.
She is warm and feels safe cuddled up next to your body, hearing and smelling everything that is familiar to her. When it is time to feed during the night, it is easy just to roll over and help her latch on, keeping you cozy, not needing to get out of bed to tend to her,
You spend several months cuddling with your cute little baby, enjoying every night together, but then there comes a time that she gets too big or you are ready to have your bed back. And that is when things get difficult.
Breaking your baby from co-sleeping can be one of the most difficult transitions you and your baby will have to fight through. So, how can you make it easier on both of you? How can you stick it out while she is crying, all the while trying to teach her to sleep on her own without you?
We are here to help. We want to give you some tips that will help make this transition easier for you both, which will leave you both resting easy and getting better sleep when all is said and done.
Come up with a Plan
Start by deciding when is the right time to begin the transition. 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. 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.
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 fall asleep and stay asleep.
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, believe it or not. 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.White noise, whether it is a special machine or simply a CD of nature sounds, can help your baby to sleep better. Not only does it mask the sounds of the house around her, but -- without getting too technical -- the sounds waves of white noise are optimal for your brain to help you sleep.
Move with your Baby
Now, this tip may seem a bit contradictory, considering that we are talking about trying to get your baby to sleep on her own, but moving in with your baby for a short period will likely help her to transition easier.
Moving to an unfamiliar place by herself 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 you do decide to move to your baby’s new room with her for a short time, keep it brief; perhaps no longer than a week or two. 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.
Teach your Baby to Fall Asleep on Their Own
One of the biggest saboteurs to a baby learning to sleep by herself is the fact that she does not know how to fall asleep on her own. She wakes up during the night and relies on you to help her go back to sleep, resulting in lost sleep for the both of you.
Teaching a baby to fall asleep on her own can be very difficult. No one likes to hear their little one cry for them, so most parents will cave and run in to comfort their baby, often rocking her or giving her a pacifier to help her 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).
Instead, you should leave her when she is drowsy, not fully asleep, 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. We introduce sleep associations whether we realize it or not, so the real trick is breaking her away from them.
Instead of a sleep association, create a bedtime routine. This can include baths, reading time, and singing a bedtime song.
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:
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 will power 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.
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 to 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.
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Breastfeeding and Cosleeping
If you have continued to breastfeed well into the toddler years then you are up against a second major change that you both have to become accustomed to.
Being able to feed while you sleep can be a real luxury at times, and a necessary convenience for working Moms especially (like myself!).
But it can't last forever and you have to bite the bullet eventually. This means at least a couple of very tough nights.
Tips to Wean off Night Feeding
There are no shortcuts here, but there are a few things you can do that will give some comfort for your baby while they get used to things.
- Make sure they have a good dinner, and they get some breastmilk in the lead up to bed time.
- Look for substitutes that provide comfort. A favorite toy or book that they like to hold.
- Offer water in place of breastmilk if they wake in the middle of the night
- Get Dad involved and remove the temptation entirely. This worked wonders for me in those first few nights.
- Explain to your baby what is happening. Even if they don't understand, it will still help things sink in eventually.
The following video gives a detailed account of the process for one mother. There are two main points that I took from her experience - aside from the obvious point that THIS IS GOING TO SUCK!!
- When there is a specific need to push through with the change you are far more likely to stick to your guns. Change for change's sake will never seem worth it.
- The third night is the clincher! If you can stick it out until then your baby should be 95% adjusted.
* Tip: Fast forward to the 3.50 mark if you want to skip to the actual steps taken.
Starting a new routine can be stressful for both parent and baby alike. As a mother of a co-sleeper, I know the struggle of making that transition.
But staying consistent in your plan and helping your child to know that you are always there for her will allow you to be successful and give you both a peaceful night’s sleep.
If you have any questions or concerns about breaking your baby from co-sleeping, leave us a comment below. And if you know of other parents, like you, who may be looking for tips on transitioning a baby to her own bed, share this link with them to give them support.