Today’s blog post is written by Kate from Serenity Sleep and Wellness.
Before I had my first child and worked as a Pediatric Sleep Consultant, I was so excited about the idea of co-sleeping. My good friend had co-slept with great success and spoke warmly of baby snuggles and the ease of feeding in the night. Conversations with her led to happy pregnancy daydreams of all the bonding I would do and the restful sleep I would get with my baby by my side. I had visions of my husband and I sleeping peacefully with our little baby snuggled between us, his soft breath dancing along my cheeks. We would wake and gaze at each other over our baby boy still sleeping soundly between us, smile, and be grateful for this gift. Nighttime sleep would be blissful and easy right?
This is the part of the family sitcom when you hear the record screech and the scene come to a halt on your screen. If you’re a mom, I think you know why! Reality was somewhat less romantic, because apparently, babies like to move around a little (or A LOT) when they sleep. What my good friend neglected to tell me was that her husband had permanently retreated to the living room couch and those baby snuggles were more like little baby punches to the face and kicks to the back. It was as if my sweet little boy turned into a miniature ninja in the night. His mission: be as restless as possible to prevent any sleep from happening. Oh, and did I mention that they also make a lot of noise and have zero respect for your personal space? Where was this restful bliss I had dreamed of? It certainly wasn’t happening in my bedroom.
So after a while (fast forward to the toddler years and people wonder why I became a Sleep Consulatant), I decided it was time to reclaim my bed. However by then, my baby had gotten fairly accustomed to sleeping next to me and wasn’t going without a little protest.
So if you’re in the same situation and are looking for a way to get your baby sleeping in their own room, allow me to offer up some helpful hints.
First off, prepare yourself for the resistance. Nobody reacts well to changes in their sleep routine, so there’s almost definitely going to be some push-back. If your little one is able to climb out of their crib, they’ll probably make a few late night trips into your room and attempt to climb back into bed with you.
When this happens, don’t get upset. Keep your cool and walk them back into their room. Explain that they’re not allowed to sleep in your bed and let them know what the consequence will be if they do it again. (Side note a great consequence for this is closing their bedroom door for a minute or two if they leave their room. I’ve used this one myself and it’s been super effective.)
On the positive side of things, you might want to set up a reward program for good nights spent in their own bed. A treat or a sticker on the calendar can be a great incentive, but keep the time window short. Kids have a hard time understanding rewards if they’re expected to maintain a behavior for a full week, so a daily reward usually works best.
The other way to soften the blow of moving your little one into their own room is to stay in their room with them for a few nights while they’re making the change. Don’t rock them to sleep or engage with them while they’re drifting off, as this can create an association issue. However, feel free to sit in a chair while they’re falling asleep so they can see that you’re there, and gradually start working your way out earlier and earlier.
Again, there’s probably still going to be a little bit of crying, but once your baby gets the hang of sleeping in their own room, your whole family can look forward to much more restful nights, and far fewer wake ups from an unintentional kick to the face.From your baby, anyways. I can’t promise anything from your partner.
Safe Sleeping Guidelines Note: The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends that infants sleep in the parents’ bedroom, close to the parents bed, but on a different sleep surface (crib, bassinet or play yard) until the child’s first birthday or at a minimum the first 6 months of life. Bed sharing increases the risk of suffocation, strangulation and entrapment that can occur when bed sharing and for these reasons it is not recommended. The frightening reality is that according to the AAP, approximately 3500 infants die annually in the U.S. from sleep related incidents. Always follow safe sleep guidelines to reduce the risk of infant sleep related injury and death.