“Co-Sleeping!” they said.
“But you’ll never get her out of your bed!” they said.
Ha! I sure showed them.
And quite frankly, if those gorgeous little babies love sleeping with us so much, then surely it has to be good for them. Besides, I don’t know any parents who haven’t been able to kick their teenager out of their bed.
Hands down, co-sleeping is one of the most enjoyable choices I’ve made as a parent.
I’ve accumulated so many beautiful co-sleeping memories over the last 14 years, so it was bitter-sweet to start preparing my last-born (*sniff*) to move into her own bed.
Being in a one parent home, I especially enjoy being snuggled up in bed with my little girl. It gives me almost the same oxytocin high as when I would sniff her adorable little newborn head. Mmmm… that new baby smell.
If co-sleeping creates a similar loved-up feeling in our little ones, then of course it’s not going to be easy to take away that source of bliss and safety.
All too soon, our children grow up and decide they don’t want so much affection any more. I make the most of it while I can!
Why I Transitioned From Co-Sleeping To Independent Sleeping
I decided to make the transition from co-sleeping to independent sleeping when the quality of my sleep rapidly declined. I was waking up too often in the night, and struggling through the next day. It was like those ‘newborn’ days all over again – and I felt like a zombie!
Reluctantly, I decided that I needed to take the first steps towards getting my four year old into her own bed.
I was prepared for a long transition. Just like weaning, crawling, and walking, independent sleeping is also a gradual process for most little ones.
It’s a huge step for a little human being to be in a bed all by herself, with all that empty space and no reassuring skin contact.
So I knew I would have to be patient and loving, and follow my heart too.
By now you’ve probably realised how powerful a mother’s intuition is. So I decided to trust that whatever feelings – and therefore whatever decisions – I made during the transition would be for the best.
I had already placed a single bed at the foot of my bed. My daughter knew that it was her bed, and one day she’d be sleeping in it. She adores anything Shopkins, so I had bought a Shopkins doona cover and pillow.
Even though I didn’t have her sleep in the bed straight away, she’d get very upset if it was messy and not neatly made, because she loved to see the picture whenever she was in the room!
I put her favourite cuddly toys on the bed, and her favourite books on the little side table.
The bed setup had been there for about two months, only because I was content to be co-sleeping for a little while longer. I would regularly tell my daughter that she would be sleeping in her bed soon, so we could both get some better sleep. Sometimes she would say, “No, I want mummy’s bed”, and she would tell me she was scared of her own bed. It pulled at my heart strings, but I reassured her I would be right there with her at night, and she could come into mummy’s bed at any time.
When I was ready to begin, I picked a date and committed to it. Here’s how I did it, step by step.
From Co-Sleeping To Solo Sleeping In One Week
We have a bedtime routine, so it was important to continue that – but in her bed instead of mine. After showering and getting into pyjamas, we would choose two books, and read them snuggled up in bed. But from now on, we would do this in her bed.
She resisted the idea a little, but I reassured her I would be very close by. I put my pillows at the foot of my bed so our heads would be closer, and planned to put my arm within reach of her, so she could feel the comfort of my touch if she needed it.
On the first night, we read our two stories, and then it was time to turn out the lights (usually she’s out like a light after this, as she’s familiar with the routine).
I switched off the lights and went to lie down, reaching out my arm. She was very upset and started crying, desperate to cuddle with me, in my bed. I kept reassuring her it would be okay. But she was very unsettled.
In the end, I supported her to sleep by sliding into her bed with her. I got out only after she had fallen asleep.
It was a rough night, as expected. At some point during the night (I don’t think it was very long after falling asleep), she woke crying. I called her to come into my bed, so she knew it would be easy and okay to come to me if she needed me.
But I was so proud of her for falling asleep in her own bed, and sleeping there for some of the night – and I let her know it. She even cracked a smile when I told her so.
The second night it was the usual routine, and overnight she was less resistant.
I followed the pattern of the previous night and snuggled her to sleep in her own bed. The change of tactics was much less stressful for both of us this time, and much more effective. She went off to sleep as quickly as usual.
Overnight, she was a little more settled, but still came into my bed at some point – a little later than on the previous night, and with fewer tears and not so much broken sleep.
By the third night, my daughter was much more settled into the new routine. She crawled into my bed at some point, but slept over on the other side of the bed, so we both slept really well without bumping into each other.
It seemed that she was finally okay sleeping without being right next to me.
This was the most unexpected surprise: she slept through the whole night in her own bed. For the first time. Ever.
I woke up the next morning and it took me a minute to realise she was still in her own bed. I sat up, looked around, and saw her still sleeping soundly. I checked the time on my phone. Wow! It was 8am. We had both had a great sleep!
She did the same thing the following night too.
After almost two weeks of my daughter sleeping in her own bed, I am calling it a success.
Sure, she crawls into my bed on the odd night, but she sleeps alone too. One morning, she slept in her own bed until 10am – a first for her! It was a weekend, and we had stayed up a little late. Usually she senses I am gone and wakes up – which can be painful sometimes, when all you want is a cup of tea and to watch the news in peace!
While I expected a long haul (and of course, other children might take longer) the important thing to remember is this huge step takes time. To us, it might not seem significant, but to a small person who has been on the planet for only a few years, and is doing something different from what she’s always done, it is very big.
If you also have other big things going on in your life – for example, a new baby, a separation, a house move, or starting kinder, it can create insecurity, and any extra change might be more difficult. It might be better to try it when things have settled down.
When my daughter came into my bed, I didn’t see it as a failure or a signal that things would never change. Every step is progress. When a child knows she is safe, and will be supported lovingly throughout the transition, it makes the process so much easier for both child and parent. It’s just like learning to ride a bike: sometimes you fall off. It won’t be perfect the first time, because you haven’t done it before.
With love and reassurance, and a bit of practice, these amazing little human beings will be enjoying their new independence in no time.