I transitioned my bed-sharing toddler to her own bed when she turned two. I had willingly suffered through two years of very poor sleep, because the crying-it-out alternative was not an option for me. My first daughter litterally woke up an average of 10 times a night. Every time she woke up I nursed her. She didn’t miss much sleep because she was only half asleep when she woke up, but if I tried ignoring her, she would really wake up, and then both of us would be miserable for at least an hour if not more. I chose to be sleep-deprived over listening to her cry. Call me crazy, but it actually made me saner than the nights I tried to wait her cries out, when she then was sleep deprived as well as upset. But lucky for me my daughter was very verbal at a very early age. As with weaning, I talked to her about what we were going to do, so at least she knew it was coming. The following steps were how I transitioned her from my bed to her own bed inside her own room.
Step One: I told her that when she turned two she was going to get to sleep in her own big girl bed in her own room.
Step Two: We set up the bed in her room. Up until this point “her” room had been a guest room with a different bed in it and while we used the room to store her clothes, she never really went in there otherwise. Not even to play as we have all the toys in our playroom where the daycare takes place. I also took some of her favorite toys and placed them in “her” room to get her used to going in there.
Step Three: I put a matress on my floor and after nursing her to sleep in my bed I rolled off the bed and onto the floor. I know, it doesn’t sound right to some of you, giving the toddler the grown up’s bed, but due to having a creaky bed and me needing to move around a lot to get comfortable before I go to sleep (if I was a dog I’m sure I’d be one of those ones who circle their bed twenty times before settling in for the night) and my toddler being a light sleeper, the floor was my best shot at ensuring Step Three was successful.
Each time she woke up I would go onto the bed and nurse her. Sometimes she would stop crying before I got there so I started realizing that my physical presence was one of the reasons she had been waking up and continuing to cry to nurse when I hesitated. But once I wasn’t there, her nightime wakings were fewer and less intense. That being said, I was still crawling into bed with her a few times per night. And sometimes, out of exhaustion, I stayed there.
Step Four: Get Elizabeth Pantley’s No-Cry Sleep Solution and follow some of her tips.(This could even be your Step One come to think of it.) She helped make me understand infant and toddler sleep needs and how to optomize the environment to further sleep success. Things that worked for me included eliminating tv or electronic exposure at least an hour before bed, (she wasn’t watching it but we were), making sure she went to bed at the same time every night and ensuring her bedtime routine was the same every night. It was pretty routine before the program, but I tweaked it even more and saw a big difference. They say kids thrive on routine and they really do. I used to think that if she went to bed too early she would wake up at the crack of dawn like all the other kids I knew, and since the members of our family are not early risers, I did not want this to happen. Lo and behold, she went to bed earlier and still slept until 8:00 or 8:30! My girl was sleeping about 12 1/2 hours per night whereas before she was sleeping about 10 hours per night and napping inconsistently in the daytime. She started napping better in the afternoon too. Every afternoon she slept one hour, then went to bed like clockwork at 7:30. As she got a bit older she gave up her afternoon nap but continued (and continues) to sleep between 11 1/2 to 12 1/2 hours per night. Thank you Elizabeth Pantley! Pantley also suggests getting into the habit of breaking the nursing latch when you are nursing your little one to sleep. It takes some persevereance but doing this helps them get used to not falling completely asleep nursing. She says everytime they cry nurse them again, but keep trying to unlatch after counting to ten or twenty if they look really close to drifting off.
Step Five: Once your toddler starts sleeping for longer stretches without waking, and you are spending less time in the same bed with her, it’s time to move her to her own bed. Go slow! My daughter was ambivalent about sleeping in her big girl bed. She wanted to but she was afraid to be without me. I nursed her to sleep each night and then went into my own room. Everytime she woke up I went in and nursed her and comforted her. She soon learned that I was still there if she needed me. Some nights I still fell asleep in her bed, but for the most part it was a successful transition.
Step Six: I started telling her that I wasn’t going to nurse her to sleep anymore. She could nurse for awhile but she had to stop before falling asleep. She was on board. At first, after nursing her for a few minutes I would lie there until she fell asleep, but after about a week or two she started telling me to go. In fact, I had to teach her how to politely tell me she was ready for me to leave because her initial deliveries were hurting my feelings!
And that was it. That’s how she transitioned to her own bed. It probably took a couple months from start to finish, but once she was in her own bed and felt safe there, it was quick! She continued to nurse until she was three, but no longer in the middle of the night. Now I have a 25 month old who still sleeps with me. I am thinking about transitioning her too, probably by the time she’s 2 1/2. But she doesn’t wake up 10 times a night so I don’t feel as rushed this time. And I know I’ll miss having her next to me when that day comes so I guess I’m just trying to enjoy this time as much as I can.
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PS: Thanks to @Luvschweetheart for giving me the idea to write this post. Check her out at Typical Ramblings, Atypical Nonsense
Posted by Attachment/Natural Parenting, Breastfeeding Infants, Breastfeeding Toddler Subscribe to RSS feed