Transitioning Your Child to their Own Sleep Space
Where should your baby sleep? Crib, co-sleeper, bed, bassinet, DockAtot?! The possibilities are endless. And although you swore up and down while expecting that you would NEVER end up with a baby in your bed, we all know how that sometimes plays out!
The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that a baby sleep in a crib in their parent’s room for the first 6 months of their life. They define this as “co-sleeping”, I however, define this as “room-sharing”, and tend to think of co-sleeping as truly having your baby share the bed with one or more parent through some part of the day or night.
Now before you think I am going to write a blog shaming you for co-sleeping, continue reading. Ha! That would never be my intention because really, I don’t give a f*ck where your family sleeps. I don’t sleep in your bed, so.. why would I care? I trust that you have made a decision that fits your family’s lifestyle, and that if you have decided to co-sleep; you are of course following all precautions to do so safely such as those listed here.
What this article is about is HOW to prepare your child to sleep in their own room, and in their own crib, when that time comes. Do you just decide one night that this is how it will be? Rip off the band-aid and let er fly?!
I am going to go with… No... I always think, what would the baby prefer? How can we adjust baby to a new scenario in a way that is most natural, and more likely to invoke a positive response?
Step 1: Begin Building a Positive Room Association
Essentially this means playing with your child in their new sleep space. Make a focused effort to go to this room a few times per day. Bring some of your baby or toddler’s favourite toys, and enjoy the space together. Play on the floor. Offer them your focused attention. Read some stories, and sing some songs in their new room. Do this for at least a couple of days, before moving on to the next step. 10 or 15 minutes twice per day tends to be a good guideline in terms of spending focused time.
Step 2: Build a Positive Relationship with Your Child’s Crib or Bed
If this is a place your baby has never slept before, it may be completely foreign to them. If you have seen your baby go into their crib and immediately burst into tears upon hitting the mattress, it is pretty safe to say they have no clue what this space is for, and whether or not they should trust it! Let’s get them comfortable here.
We want our babies to see their crib as a safe haven. Therefore, when they do wake up through the middle of the night they know where they are. They trust that this is a place they like and enjoy, and can spend a few minutes looking around and relaxing in before they fall asleep, as well as, return to sleep through partial arousals in the night.
Follow the same ritual as you did in preparing your child for their new room. Allow your child to PLAY in their crib. I know I know… some of you are saying, but I want her to SLEEP in her crib, why on earth would I let her play in it?! Isn’t that just going to teach her that this space is for playing in? No. No it is not. For the reasons listed above! We want this to become one of your child’s favourite, most comfortable places, and one way to achieve this is through play.
At first, stay with your child and truly entertain them. Bring them toys, read them books while they are in their crib, sing songs etc. Then begin to build up your time away. Begin to do something in your child’s room. For example; fold laundry, or begin going through their closet and sort the clothes that no longer fit! When your baby babbles, go over to the crib and babble back. Show your love and support and that you will always be there to check on them. They can feel safe knowing you are always going to respond to their needs while they are in their crib.
Next, move on to the step of leaving your child to play in their crib for a few minutes at a time. Say, “mommy is just going to go get a glass of water, or check on brother, etc,” you get the idea. Leave the room but stay within earshot. Do return as you promised you would, and babble back at baby. At first you may just leave the room for 30 – 45 seconds, but see if you can grow this to 2 or 3 minutes, and even up to 5. Every return to your baby shows them that they can in fact trust you, and you mean what you say in terms of offering them support.
If you are planning to do any “sleep shaping” with your little one, I see the above as an essential step in preparing them for this; especially for a child who has never slept in their crib. Wait until you are in a place of putting your baby down in their crib and they immediately smile and coo, etc., before you begin your sleep coaching regime. You will probably save you and your baby A LOT of tears!
Step 3: Baby Already Knows their Bed
If your baby has already been sleeping in their crib in your room, and has a positive relationship with this space your job is much easier. After spending some time on step 1, I would suggest moving your baby’s crib to their room for at least one nap, before expecting them to sleep all night in this space. There is really no need to juggle back and forth between having naps in their new room, and then nighttime back in your room. Just aim to have afternoon nap here, followed by bedtime the same day. Pick a day and time when you feel you and baby are ready, and commit 100% to your baby’s new sleep space. You have spent some time allowing your baby the chance to become accustomed to their new space, and you can support them here. But, it would be unfair to juggle back and forth between rooms, or even bring your child back into your bed at this particular time.
Step 4: Don’t Hesitate to Stay Nearby
Even if your child is accustomed to falling asleep without your presence, don’t hesitate to stay nearby on the first few nights baby is sleeping in their new room. Some parents decide to offer support by sitting on a chair in their child’s room until baby falls asleep, or even sleeping on an air-mattress on the floor for the first couple of nights. It is really up to you.
After all, this is all about YOU, your baby, and YOUR family. Of course I am happy to offer suggestions as to how we might help this all go more smoothly, but at the end of the day all that matters is that your family is happy with your sleep situation.
If you’re not… perhaps then it is time to see if I can help find a customized solution for you.
Thank you to Stacie-Lynn Photography for the beautiful photo I used to showcase this blog. <3