The decision to transition from co-sleeping to a big kid bed is a tough one to navigate. Below are some steps to take to start the process, but first, here is a little bit of what got us to that place.
My husband and I didn't make the decision to co-sleep with our first. We fell into the concept while in survival mode as new parents. Emma had severe sensitivities to dairy, egg, and soy protein in my breastmilk. She night-nursed constantly to alleviate the pain in her belly, and I never slept.
I found that by keeping her in the crook of my arm, I got a lot more sleep. I didn't have to get up and get her for feedings, and I didn't have to stay up long enough to put her back in her bed. Genius! Soon I realized we had become a co-sleeping family. And we loved it.
We decided to keep up this style of sleep parenting until it no longer worked for one of us in the bed. I always made a point to put Emma down in her crib, but once she woke up for her first feeding it was into our bed she came. Once she grew out of herbassinet that was against my side of the bed, I bought a toddler bed rail and attached it to my side of the bed to keep her in.
The next steps are what ultimately moved her out of our bed:
- We put her crib next to our bed so that we could start having her use it more regularly, and if I happened to be awake after she finished feeding I would put her back in the crib. We didn't start doing this until she was close to a year old.
- Next, we decided to give us all some more space. We took one side off of her crib and side-carred it to my side of the bed. She would roll to me to nurse and I would roll her back to her pillow afterwards so that she could learn to sleep in her own space. I was still close enough for her to find me if she needed me, but I could still guide her back to her pillow.
- A few months later: we turned her crib into its toddler bed version because she was old enough to climb in and out, around 13 or 14 months, keeping it against my side of the bed with the toddler rail up on the outer side of her bed. We also started to put her asleep with a "buddy" so that she could have something to make her feel like she was not alone.
- When Emma was 15 months old we decided to teach her to go to bed without falling asleep on us first. We wanted to "parent" Emma to sleep, but within reason. A routine we implemented involved us holding her, saying a prayer, and singing one song just like we used to when we rocked her. We would then lay her in her bed and tuck her in "nice and cozy" while putting her buddy beside her. Then we would kiss her on the head, tell her to stay in her bed and go "night-night", and that we would see her in the morning. [it wasn't all fairytales and unicorns, let me tell you, but eventually she adjusted and it became normal for her] She would cry initially, and since we didn't encourage "cry-it-out", we would go in after 30 seconds to a minute, say the same mantra, and leave. Each time she cried, we would lengthen our time until we went in again.
- Next we moved her toddler bed against the wall by our bed so that she couldn't roll over to me during the night. If she needed to get up and come to my side of the bed that was okay, but we didn't want her automatically defaulting to the habit.
- Once it was time to move to her own room, we made a big deal out of picking a toddler bed (we went with IKEA) and special bedding that made her excited to sleep there. It really worked! Each night we would talk up the big girl bed and her comfy, cozy heart blanket and heart pillow. She ate it up!
Obviously she still came in our room in the middle of the night for a while, but as she got older she started sleeping through the night unless she had a scare, was sick, or teething. It really has been wonderful. Just remember that there are always setbacks. Sometimes these are in your control and sometimes they aren't. Never go at a pace that isn't right for you and your little one. It is your family, and no amount of pressure from outside sources can dictate how you parent. You do you!
I wish you the best of luck in your journey to transition your little one, and if you have any questions please feel free to email me at email@example.com