In the world of Baby and Toddler, the term “co-sleeping” can mean one of two things:
1. Sleeping in the same room together but in separate, distinct beds (room-sharing)
2. Sleeping in the same bed together, sharing blankets and body heat (bed-sharing)
If your baby is 12 months old or younger, the official (very firm) suggestion from the American Academy of Pediatrics is that babies should sleep on a firm, separate surface on their back with no other bedding, pillows, or soft objects in the sleep space (AKA no bed-sharing). On that same page, however, the AAP also recommends that parents should room-share for at least the first six months of life – preferably the first twelve.
So why is bed-sharing “not good” while room-sharing is encouraged? That’s a complicated question to answer, but the long and short is that bed-sharing carries with it a lot of risks, while room-sharing helps reduce those risks.
Whether you choose to bed-share or room-share, there comes the point in every parent’s life when they want their own space back. Maybe it’s because you’re tired of someone’s hand slapping you in the face at one in the morning, or your toddler’s constant presence in the nearby crib is putting a damper on your love life. Whatever the reason, there comes a time when your toddler needs to move out and get his own place.
The problem is that toddlers are little creatures of habit, and anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you something. If your toddler has been bed-sharing or room-sharing with you his entire life, you’re going to have a tough time breaking that habit, but it is possible, and here are our tips:
1. Let Him Make Decisions
We’re not saying you should let him go to town with decorating, but allowing him to choose between three potential (pre-approved!) paint colors and some cling-on wall stickers can earn you and the new bedroom serious kudos.
2. Be Consistent
Ah, this is just what every parent wants to hear. Being consistent is hard. The whining, crying, screaming, and tantrums are enough to make just about anyone throw in the towel, but you have to stick to your guns and be consistent. If you choose a transitional sleep training strategy like the Chair method or Fading, you need to hold firm against the inevitable (and thankfully temporary) backlash.
Consistency isn’t always about being the bad guy, though. It also means keeping the bedtime routine the same and using all of the same praise and encouragement you normally do. You can ease some of the anxiety with the new room by gradually doing more of the playtime and bedtime routine in the new room. If you consistently make positive associations with the new room and bed, you’ll help ease your toddler’s anxiety about the new space.
3. Go Slow
Just like every other change in a toddler’s life, you should not expect a complete 180 overnight. A new bedroom has new smells, sounds, and shadows, and it can be a scary place to wake up in alone at night. Until your toddler learns the skills to conquer his nighttime separation anxiety, you can anticipate being a little more tired than usual (if that’s even possible…).
Another way to help ease the transition is to do it slowly. Play in the room during the day and really talk it up with your toddler. You can use words and phrases like “big kid bed” and “your own space” and “mommy/daddy needs their own space, too.”
You might be tempted to make a whole bunch of changes at once, but you need to go slow to avoid out of control toddler sleep regression. Don’t switch to a toddler or twin bed as soon as you make the room change. Instead, keep their original bed until he’s used to the new room and then plan another transitional period for the bed change.
You’ll probably want to fade out your presence in his room as well. Some people use the Chair or Mattress method where you start with a chair or mattress right next to his bed for a few days until he gets used to things and falls asleep. Then you move it a few feet away for a couple of days to get him used to that idea, rinse, repeat, until you’re out of the room when he falls asleep. Again, the key to success with this method is consistency.
4. Prepare and Plan
For most kids, this process is going to take a little while, so you need to plan in advance. Not only do you need to decide how you’ll respond to midnight wakings before they happen, but you also need to figure out the best time to start the whole process in the first place. Try not to begin the transition process when things are chaotic (starting daycare, switching beds, potty training, sickness, etc.); instead, shoot for a time when things are calm and relatively normal.
If you’re making the transition because another baby is on the way, do it several months ahead of time to help ease potential feelings of jealousy associated with a new baby. And of course, plan the first few nights of transition for a time when you don’t need to function well and make big decisions during the day.
5. Prevent Overtired
Moving into their own room is a big transition for most toddlers, and it can disrupt a lot of other areas in their lives. You may have to make some temporary adjustments to naptime and bedtime to prevent your toddler from being overly tired, but doing so will make everyone more successful.
Transitioning a toddler to his own room is not for the faint of heart, but it will allow everyone to sleep better in the long run. By letting him help, being consistent, going slow, having a plan, and preventing overtired, you are in a good position for success. Of course, you can always contact one of our certified sleep consultants for additional, customized help to get everyone sleeping through the night again.
Contact Tiny Transitions if you need more help with this important change in your child’s life. And if you’re looking to be a sleep coach yourself, we’re here to help. We are now offering the only Pediatric Sleep Consultant Certification and Business Coaching Program that equips you to be the go-to baby sleep consultant serving your area. If you’ve dealt with a tired baby, you know how critical it is that families get back on track with the best sleep practices. We’ll equip you to teach these practices and also help you grow and develop your business for financial success.