Getting Kids to Sleep in Their Own Beds
Who would ever have thought there would be ideological wars over children’s sleeping arrangements? But that’s where we are today with the “family bed” advocates vs. the separate bed/separate bedroom proponents. Somewhere between the conflicting advice of prominent experts and the needs of a spouse who wants a return to the days of adult privacy, and a good night’s sleep there is a solution for each of us to help our children find the way to their very own bed. The answers, fortunately, are not in some child rearing dogma, but are based on what will help you be the best for your baby when you are both awake.
What do you really want? Are you willing to commit to the separate bed in a separate room and walk a few extra steps at 2:00 am to nurse or change a diaper? This is one way your little one always knows his or her bed is NOT your bed. Or do you crave constant contact? Most new parents are unclear on this in the beginning, so they stick with rooming in and/or sleeping in for several months. When you figure out that this is no longer tolerable, your baby’s desire to stay in or near your bed is likely to be quite strong and difficult to break.
To avoid a lot of pain on your side of the equation (your guilt at forcing baby to go solo) you might want to consider baby’s “moving out” as a process rather than an event. There are several elements to the process that you can manipulate or control. The elements are the:
- Separate bed and the separate space.
- Bed-time routine or ritual (from simple to elaborate)
- Lighting in the room
- Distractions like mobiles in the room
- Comfort item(s) like soothers or things baby can take to or wear in the crib/bed
- Consistency of your sticking to the moving plan
- Response to baby’s distress
The 3 highlighted items are the elements of the moving process that are most likely to breakdown because they are based on your behavior. For example, the bed-time routine is essential. It should position baby for safe comfortable sleep–a full tummy, clean diaper, cuddling, calm music or soft storytelling. You know your child, but try to keep it simple so it is do-able every day.
If your child is willfully challenging, it is really useful to be very consistent about the habit of sleeping only in the baby bed until the sleep habit is firmly established. Random sleep in multiple locations isn’t a good habit or good sleep.
Letting baby cry is the hardest thing to do. But if you know your baby is safe, and the wails are from fatigue and anger, leave the room and see how long you can abstain. Your last resort is to rock your baby to sleep—and that’s certainly not a bad thing, especially if it’s the most direct path to a separate peace—good sleep for you and for baby, each in your own bed.