Transitioning Your Co-Sleeping Child to Her Own Bed (It IS Possible!)

transition bed

It happened so suddenly. We’d been talking about it for awhile, but yesterday, my husband took action. He emptied our older daughter’s bedroom. We organized, we tossed, we scrubbed, and we mopped. And, then, there it was. A sparkling clean bedroom with two twin beds with coordinating pink and purple comforters. Two beds just close enough for late-night sisterly confidences, yet far enough apart to air out the inevitable future disagreements. At two-and-a-half years old, our youngest daughter, our baby, was ready to move in to her sister’s room and move out of ours.

We’ve co-slept with all of our children. It took some getting used to at first, but after 11-plus years, I’ve grown to love it. Of course, there are rough nights. There are nights when I feel like a punching bag and nights when a king-size bed just isn’t big enough. But those nights are no match for the smell of a freshly shampooed head lying next to mine on the pillow, or the feel of a snuggly little body warming mine while the dead of winter yields its worst outside, or the opportunity to gaze at my precious child’s face in the glow of the night light while time disappears into irrelevance. I’ve loved these co-sleeping years, and my heart feels sad as we transition my baby into her own bed with no promise of another little one coming anytime soon.

But, it’s time. We’ve done this before, and here are some approaches that have helped us make this time of change go as smoothly as possible.

1. Plant the idea.

We started talking to my daughter about sharing a room with her sister and having her own bed several weeks before actually doing anything. When the time came, she was excited and looking forward to it.

2.  Let them choose something special for their bed.

It might be new sheets, a comforter, or just a fun pillow or stuffed animal. Letting our children make their bed their own helped them to want to sleep there.

3.  Give them some company.

My five children have two bedrooms. And they still often all end up piled into the same room by morning. Sleeping bags, pillows on the floor, three bodies in one twin bed. As one of my friends puts it, “As long as everyone sleeps, it doesn’t matter where.” We’ve found that siblings who share rooms are much happier together, day and night.

4.  Take it slow.

 Some of our children started sleeping in their own bed for naps only at first. With all of them, I kept the same bedtime routine of nursing them to sleep, then I just put them down in their bed instead of ours. The first time they fussed, I moved them into our bed for the rest of the night. Go with the flow. Don’t force. Over time, they will gradually sleep for longer periods of time in their own bed.

5.  Remember, it’s a “conversation.”

I love this description that Dr. Greg Popcak gives to dealing with children’s sleep issues. It truly is a conversation, unique to every child. One child might show interest in their own bed at 12 months, while another might not be ready until age three. Follow your child’s cues. The process will ebb and flow. Even my elementary school-aged children experience times when they need more parental comfort at night. But I’m finding that, by middle school-age, it takes a pretty ferocious thunderstorm for them to seek us out in the dark — and my 11-year-old now says nearly every night, “I’m so tired. I’m going right to sleep.” And he crawls into his own bed and goes to sleep all by himself. No problem.

And I can’t help but sigh wistfully and remember a time when a certain downy, sweet-smelling head wouldn’t sleep anywhere but next to mine.

Comments

  1. Thank you for the quick reply Charisse! I don’t mean to self advertise, but since you mentioned you are transitioning your daughter, I wrote in detail about how I transitioned my 1 year old out of our bed and let her fall asleep on her own and sleep through the night without tears. If you’re interested, you’re welcome to read it here: http://thewhitfordlife.com/2015/08/31/transition-from-co-sleeping-to-a-crib-without-crying/ Maybe there is a tip of two you may like. Thank you again for your reply!

  2. Thank you, Suzi! We are still working on the transition with our daughter, but I agree that it is definitely worth it to take it slow in order to keep it low stress. It is possible to help our children sleep through the night in their own beds without resorting to the “cry it out” method–and that is such a relief as a parent! God bless you and your family, and many blessings for your new bundle of joy!

  3. What a beautiful article! I made the transition to move our little princess out of our bed into her own crib a few months ago. It took me 5 months to make the full transition. But taking it slow, without tears and stress, was worth it. I read and reread Elizabeth Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution, and followed most of her steps. And when I was finally successful, I felt so happy I needed to blog about it! Thank you for posting this article, although it only reminds me of how much I miss our little girl in our bed. But thankfully, her little sister will soon be sleeping under my arm come February!

Leave a Reply