Where your baby and/or child sleeps is a hotly debated topic among parents and non-parents. Everyone has their own strongly formed opinions on the matter, when really, at the end of the day, it’s nobody’s business whether your child sleeps in their crib, in a bassinet, or in your bed. Personally, I always felt it was wildly dangerous to sleep with your child in your bed with you. I remembered a harrowing commercial in high school that showed a mother rolling onto her baby, and presumably crushing and suffocating it. It was absolutely heart wrenching. At the hospital when I delivered my son, the nurse told me “we do not allow cosleeping in the mother and baby rooms.” I laughed and told her “Oh, don’t worry, I would NEVER do that. I don’t understand people who do!”
And then three weeks later, Munchkin went through a growth spurt.
He was cluster feeding round the clock. I was exhausted, still recovering from a horrible birth, and I’d barely eaten or slept all day. He woke up around 9pm, wailing for milk. I cried as I sat in my bed with him on my nursing pillow, fighting to stay awake. I could feel myself drifting off and starting to lean my body, then starting awake and crying in misery and exhaustion.
J begged me to just lie down with him, so I wouldn’t fall down while feeding him on our 3.5 foot tall bed. I insisted it was unsafe, and I needed to power through. He continued to beg until I relented, and settled him between us, his head on my arm, my arm outstretched, my breast in easy reach.
And I slept. I slept, he ate, he slept. When he woke me up crying, I passed him to J to change him, and he brought him back to me. I settled him next to me on my breast, and we both peacefully slept. And finally, he started staying warmer than he usually was. Being born a month premature, he was constantly swaddled in two fleece blankets to keep him at a normal temperature. Sleeping against me, his body temperature was more able to regulate itself.
I still laid him down as much as possible in his pack n play when I could, or let him doze under the window in the sunlight in his bouncer to help his jaundice. But when he was especially fussy, or cluster feeding, or just clingy, he was able to doze quietly on my arm, surrounded by warmth and love.
I found two things happened when he started sleeping in our bed: I was able to position myself in a way that made it impossible to roll over, and I slept incredibly lightly. The tiniest noise or shift from him would completely awake me, and I found my fears of sleeping too deeply were wildly unfounded.
While many people around us didn’t approve, it worked for us. I don’t regret it. Do I wish I’d laid him in his own crib more often? Yes, and I take that as a learning experience. But not every single sleep was spent lying on me. Many naps were spent in a bouncer or rocker or placed in his crib. We did try to place him in it often at night, but he was incredibly sensitive to being moved. It worked for our family.
As he got bigger and lankier and more of a wild sleeper, we started to sleep worse. He started to sleep worse. We have a much shorter bed now, and many nights I would find him sleeping either halfway off of our bed, or sprawled out completely on the floor. We decided we had to move him into his own bed, for everyone’s sake.
I read dozens of articles and blog posts about transitioning your child. But none of those quite worked for us. So we made our own method, which took a bit of trial and error before we got it quite right.
If you’re currently thinking of moving your child to their own bed, or have been trying to and failing, I suggest you try the following tips that finally got our son to (99% of the time) sleep in his own bed:
If you’re still breastfeeding, and your child is over 1, you likely won’t be able to cut off the nighttime feedings without a fight. If you can, that’s great! But I found that Munchkin still very much relied on the comfort 9 nights out of 10. We started putting him in his own bed after nursing to sleep, but he would still venture into our bed for nighttime nursing. Once he fully weaned, he was able to immediately go from falling asleep on my breast, to falling asleep in his own bed while holding my hand.
Going straight from cuddling all night to putting them in their bed and saying goodnight will not likely go over well. That’s like expecting a toddler to be completely fine with moving to a new house in one day, and having an entirely new room they’ve never seen before. Take it slow. There will be leaps some nights, and steps back others. We started with bringing his mattress in our room next to our bed, and placing him in it after he fell asleep. After we weaned, we began getting him to fall asleep in his bed by ours. He would still wake up and climb next to me in the middle of the night, and we slowly began encouraging him to go back in his own bed when he did this. Slowly the times he climbed in our bed came later and later in the night, and he began to soothe himself when he woke up. He still has nights when he will climb into our bed, but he’s reached a point where most nights he spends the entire night in his own bed. He also realized he sleeps more comfortably in his own bed, because he has more room to stretch out and roll around, which brings me to….
Get them a bed appropriate for their size
While Munchkin is still sleeping in our room on his own mattress, we have realized that when he transitions to his room, we’ll need to convert his crib to its full bed option. While this may seem a bit crazy for an almost 4 year old, we realized that the reason he sleeps so much better in his bed is because he actually spreads out on the floor, and can sprawl around. He is a very lanky child, and he is most comfortable when he has a lot of room to spread out his long limbs. A full sized bed will give him the space to spread out and roll around as he needs.
If your child is still small and could potentially hurt themselves if they get out of bed, keep them in a crib! But if your child is getting bigger and is unhappy in their crib (and trying to climb out of it when placed in it), it may be time to switch them to a toddler bed. Ensuring their sleeping space will comfortably suit them and their needs will help keep them in their beds.
Make their bed fun!
Another great way to peak their interest in their own beds is to make it exciting for them! We gave Munchkin a cute Mickey bedset for Christmas, and allow him to take any stuffed animals or toys he wants to sleep with (usually he doesn’t need them though, or he’ll try and play with them instead of falling asleep). You can let them pick out their own bedding, or give them a special toy or pillow to sleep with. There are even a variety of toddler beds with their favorite characters on them, from Mickey Mouse to Doc McStuffins to Spider-Man. Making their bed a place they’ll want to be is a great way to encourage them to sleep in it.
Remember to keep your cool, and that this will pass
If it feels like your child will still be sleeping in your bed as a teenager, remember that this is just another childhood phase. Before you know it, they’ll be sleeping in their own rooms, and you’ll miss the sweet cuddles of days past when they were little. Munchkin is about to be 4, and when he does climb in for cuddles, I often relish it, as I know these moments are becoming fewer and farther between. Your child will go from climbing back into your bed ten times a night, to climbing in once or twice, catching a snuggle, and returning to their own bed. Then, they’ll no longer climb into your bed at all. Keep calm, be gentle, and you’ll be wondering how your baby became such a big kid in no time.
Whether you bedshare, cosleep, or keep them in their beds from the beginning, what’s important is that you and your baby is getting as much sleep as they need, and that they are sleeping safely. When the time comes that that means putting your bedsharing child into their own bed, hopefully these tips will help!
What are your tips for getting your child to sleep in their own bed? Let me know in the comments! Or, share with your friends who may also be struggling to transition their kids!