Depending on your resources, your child and your personal preferences, co-sleeping can be viewed as either a positive or negative in your child's life. No matter your opinion, though, eventually your child must learn to sleep on her own. This transition can be a difficult one that's emotionally draining and physically exhausting. When the time comes to make that shift, the key is to forge ahead with determination and consistency.
Recruit the Family for Support
Get your entire family on board with the decision to cease co-sleeping. "You will want -- and need -- help and support as you make this transition," says Kerrin Edmonds, a certified pediatric sleep consultant based in California, who runs a sleep coaching business called Meet You In Dreamland. The whole family may need to make adjustments in sleeping schedules, such as turning off the TV or music early, keeping the house dark, and providing support if the child reacts in an emotionally dicey way.
Your child's sleeping environment should be comfortable, inviting and conducive to falling asleep. "Make sure there are no distractions in the crib or bed, including mobiles," suggests Diana Julian, certified sleep consultant and founder of Big Sky Lullaby in Montana. "Also, keep the room dark with blackout curtains and no night lights, and regulate the temperature to stay between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit." Additionally, introduce a comfort item, such as a blanket or soft toy, to help provide your child with a sense of security.
Give Your Child a Role
If your child is old enough to have a say, allow him to play a role in creating his sleeping space. "Have them help you pick out their bedding and set up their new room so that they have ownership in the process," Julian advises. The more control and pride your child has in his bedroom, the more likely he'll want to spend time, and by extension, sleep in the room.
Set Up a Routine
Work on self-soothing skills with your child so he can learn how to fall asleep without your assistance. To do this, Julian advises establishing a consistent sleeping routine that aims to calm and prepare your child for sleep. For example, read a bedtime story or have your child draw a picture before bed. If your child becomes scared or anxious in the night, you can help squash his fears but don't fall back into a co-sleeping arrangement. The more experience your child has soothing himself, the more independent he'll become in sleeping and many other activities.
"Consistency is key when it comes to any type of transition, so choose a method that you are comfortable with and then be consistent," Edmonds notes. It may be a tricky changeover, but staying with the plan helps the process. When you do decide to move away from co-sleeping, Edmonds suggests blocking out an entire week and focusing heavily on the change. She also says you shouldn't be afraid to seek professional help from a sleep consultant if you encounter major struggles. Professionals can assist and make the process run more smoothly.