Transitioning your child from a co-sleeping situation to her own crib typically occurs between the ages of 18 months and age 3, depending on the child and your needs. This shift in sleeping arrangements can be emotionally draining and physically exhausting for all parties involved, including other children in the house. To ensure a smooth transition, make a plan, take things slow and remain consistent.
Switch Slowly to a New Routine
The most important part of transitioning away from co-sleeping and to a crib "is making sure you have a proper bedtime routine and an age-appropriate schedule," advises Kerrin Edmonds, the founder of Meet You in Dreamland and a certified pediatric sleep consultant.
It's easier on both of you to change one thing, such as your child's sleeping arrangements, instead of a number of moving parts, such as bedtime or activities done before bed. Strive to put your child on a consistent regimen, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime. Edmonds says once all the changes are in place, you can move forward.
The process of transitioning your little one from co-sleeping into her own crib can take as little as several days to several weeks. This ultimately depends on the child's age and temperament. Understand that it may take time, so exercise patience and employ a gradual transition.
Sleep Together in the Nursery
"The first step in a gradual transition is to co-sleep in the child's room," says Cate M. McKee, Certified Gentle Sleep Consultant and the founder of Sleepy Time solutions. "I typically recommend a parent and child co-sleep on a mattress on the floor for several nights so the child can become accustomed to the room."
Once your child has become accustomed to sleeping in her own room, you can then place the tot in her crib with you sleeping next to the crib on an air mattress or cot. "The parent can offer verbal and physical support for a few days while the child adjusts to an independent sleeping space," McKee notes. "After a few days, the parent should move the mattress away from the crib or bed and offer verbal reassurance. Eventually, the parent will be able to move out of the room completely."
Don't Worry About Anxiety
Your child may experience anxiety during those first few days, or even weeks, of sleeping on his own. Patrick Wanis, who has a doctorate in psychotherapy, says it's OK for your youngster to feel some anxiety, though do offer reassurance that you're nearby and will keep her safe. It's vital that she work through her anxiety, to better cope with stressful situations in the future, he explains.
Wanis advises making your child aware that she has her own sleeping space. "Say to him or her, 'Look! This is your bed. This is your space. This belongs to you and you have control over it,'" he recommends. "This creates a sense of ownership for the child." That sense of ownership can help your child build pride in her bedroom and crib, and can also help foster that feeling of a safe space.
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