“Never let your baby into your bed! You’ll never get them out!”
Have you heard that one before? I did many times as a new mother. My husband and I were still in college at the time, the first of our friends to have a baby. We were completely clueless about all things babies. Breastfeeding was going well for me, but one thing that I struggled with was sleep! Every single time I would put my newborn in his little bassinet he would cry. Then I would cry. So the steps from baby in the next room to co-sleeping (having him in our room) and bed-sharing (having him in our bed) went something like this…
- Put baby into the bassinet in the next room. The designated “baby room” with change table, bassinet and breastfeeding chair.
- Wake up NUMEROUS times throughout the night, pick up baby, breastfeed baby in said breastfeeding chair, change baby, breastfeed again, put baby back into his bassinet.
- Cry from utter exhaustion.
- Half an hour to two hours later repeat steps 1-3.
- Cry from utter exhaustion. Consider bottle feeding or hiring a wet nurse.
- Bring bassinet next to bed.
- Pick up baby, breastfeed in bed, put baby back in bassinet.
- Cry from utter exhaustion.
- Half an hour to one hour later repeat step 5-8.
- Say to husband, “that’s it!! He won’t sleep unless he is with me! I won’t sleep unless he is with me! He needs to come into bed!”
- Husband says with raised eyebrows, “OK! We will try it”.
- Husband falls back into a deep sleep and does not wake for the next eight hours.
- Mum wakes frequently but is able to pop out the boob, latch on the baby and fall back to sleep within ten seconds. Bliss.
I know for many of us, we bring our babies into bed because we find that they sleep longer, are more settled and often times we can just pop our boob out without having to even wake up. We do not question that it feels right, we question if it’s the “right” thing to do because we have no idea how we will stop doing it. We had no idea how the process of getting him out of the bed would actually work. If we can have a bit of a plan in place early on so we know how to go about doing this in the future, we can relax a bit and really enjoy co-sleeping (sleeping with our babies right next to us) or bed-sharing (having them in our bed with us).
We have three kids, all of whom slept in our bed*. We used similar steps for each of them but what worked for one, did not work for the other necessarily! All three of them slept with us from when they were born until they were about two years old. This is how we transitioned them from our bed to their own beds…
*For safe co-sleeping and bed-sharing guidelines click here*
1. When baby #1 was about two years old my husband started to put him to sleep for the night in his own bed, in his own room. He was used to falling asleep while breastfeeding, so someone from a La Leche League meeting suggested that I try having someone else put him to bed. This way he would not associate sleep with breastfeeding. It worked like magic!! My husband would sing to him and lie down with him. He soon started sleeping without breastfeeding. He also completely weaned a few months after I night weaned him. FOR DETAILED STEPS ON GENTLE NIGHT WEANING CLICK HERE.
2.At some point in the night he would then toddle down the hall and hop into our bed. I would say, “no boobie until the sun comes up” and he would fall back to sleep with us. He slept half the night in his bed and half the night in our bed for about one year, until I was pregnant with baby #2.
3.At this point we felt as though we wanted him to be comfortable NOT being in our bed for half the night before the new baby came. We needed more space. It is important to note though that many women do sleep four (or more) in a bed and that works just fine for them. It’s about doing what feels comfortable for you and your other family members. Happy to cuddle toddler in one arm and baby in the other? Great! Do what works for you and trust your own instincts on how to go ahead with the sleeping/bed-sharing situation.
4.To transition him out of our bed we put a little mattress down on the floor next to our bed and when he woke up he would lie down next to us on his own mattress. He did not like this very much at first, but he was 3 years old at that point and could understand when we told him it was time he slept in his own bed. Communicating with your child is extremely important while doing this. I would put my arm over the side of my bed and he would hold my hand while he fell back to sleep.
5.He ended up waking in the night and sleeping in our room, on his own little mattress next to our bed until he was five years old. We would not even wake when he came into our room. He knew he could come in at any time and was comforted being close to us. When we moved from the USA to Australia he magically started sleeping through the night in his own bed! We have no idea why, he was obviously just ready to do it.
Our second baby was the easiest, most chilled out baby in the history of babies. This child breastfed to sleep happily and easily every day for the entire 3 ½ years that he breastfed for. He night weaned and transitioned into his own bed really quickly and easily.
1.When we started to transition him out of our bed we began in the same way. My husband tried to settle him and put him to bed instead of me when he turned two years old. This DID. NOT. WORK. Failed miserably! He really wanted (and needed) to be breastfed to sleep still. So instead, I still breastfed him to sleep but then I would put him in his own mattress (next to our bed) and when he woke we would say, “no boobie until the sun comes up”.
2.Once the sun came up he would hop into our bed and breastfeed. He very quickly transitioned into his own bed without waking to get into our bed. He was quite happy in there!
3.We kept his bed next to our bed for about six months. Once he was about 3 years old he started to sleep in his brother’s room. He loved being with his older brother and never woke up in the middle of the night to come into our bed. He was happy to be with his big brother in their bunk beds and felt comfortable and safe.
4.He breastfed until he was 3 ½ years old but from 2 to 3 ½ he did not breastfeed throughout the night and did not sleep in our bed.
Baby #2 was chilled, easy and relaxed. Baby #3 (otherwise known as “Mini The Milk”) has never been chilled, easy or relaxed about sleep! He has pretty much hated sleep since the day he was born. Do you have one of these?!
1.From when he was about one year old we put a little toddler bed next to our bed which I would put him in to start with when he first fell asleep. After he woke to breastfeed I would either put him back (or try to put him back) in his bed. He spent some of the night in our bed and some of the night in his bed (depending on how frequently he woke and if he was settled or not).
2.From when he was about 20 months old, we started having my husband put him to sleep in the baby carrier instead of me breastfeeding him to sleep. However, he still woke ALL THE TIME to breastfeed!
3.Although he would fall asleep with my husband while being carried in the pouch, he was still waking very frequently at night and would not resettle in his own bed easily. After MANY EXHAUSTING, ANNOYING, TEARS STREAMING DOWN MY CHEEKS NIGHTS I knew that we needed to night wean and transition him into his own bed 100% so he and I could sleep! Although he would not resettle easily in his own bed, he was not a “cuddler”. He would always breastfeed and then roll away from me as far as possible! He wanted to be with us but not touching us. At all!
4.At the age of 2 ½ we successfully night weaned him. YOU CAN SEE MY VIDEO DIARIES ABOUT THIS HERE. We quickly realized that after the first two night of being glued to my husband, he actually really wanted to be sleeping on his own! He would settle much quicker when in his own space. My husband would talk to him about “no boobies until the sun comes up” and would then comfort him with a hand on his back or with a little song, all while he was in his own bed next to our bed.
5.He slept in our room, in his own bed for about 2 months. After that times (when we knew he was sleeping through) we moved him into his “big boy bed” with his older brother. He loves his new bed. At the time of writing this article, he is 2 1/2 years old and my husband still carries him in the baby carrier to fall asleep, or sometimes I breastfeed him to sleep and then we put him down in his room. Don’t get me wrong though…the second that ray of sunshine is there he is up, toddling to our room asking for “boobies”!!!!
Some main points about transitioning your child out of your bed…
Siblings. If there is an older sibling that they share a room with the transition can go much more smoothly. I mean, who wants to sleep all alone?! We are social creatures. Most adults prefer to sleep with someone at least in the same room as us so we are not alone at night. Babies, toddlers and children are the same.
It does not happen overnight. If you can be open to the idea that this will take time and not happen overnight, you can avoid your child becoming distressed, crying by themselves or needing to hire a “sleep consultant”. Just trust your instincts and follow your child’s lead. Be gentle and allow it to happen gradually, in steps.
Communicate. Communicate with your child as much as possible about the new bed or why you need some more space at night. Children are quite amazing in how much they understand and can appreciate where you are coming from. Be honest and be a good communicator.
Respect where your child is at, even if it doesn’t work for you. Some kids will respond really quickly and others won’t. Respect your child’s feelings along with your own feelings and your partner’s feelings.
Consider a “room of mattresses”. I know quite a few families who have a room of mattresses on the floor or a room of mattresses on metal bed frames! For Mini The Milk (baby #3) my husband actually put his toddler frame on stilts so it was in line with our bed. I promise you…once your children gets older, the last thing they will want to do is sleep in the same room as you. My eleven year old (baby #1) would be horrified if he had to sleep in our room!!! Funny how things change. 🙂
The connection between breastfeeding and bed-sharing or co-sleeping. Many parents find that their babies or toddlers do not happily sleep on their own until they are night weaned. However there are of course always exceptions. My mother breastfed me in the night for over a year but I always happily slept in my own cot in my own room. Night weaning can be done without much stress or heartache once your child is nearing the 18 month mark as most toddlers at this age can understand what you are saying. You can communicate with your child and can have a conversation about night weaning and/or moving them into their own bed. Whether that be in your room, or their own room. HEAD HERE for detailed info. on gentle night weaning.
Trust your instincts, go gently and be patient. Our three boys have been breastfed on demand, cuddled all night by us, co-slept, bed-shared and we never did cry it out. All three of them now sleep in their own beds and through the night. Enjoy it while it lasts. It’s a special time.