Many families that hire me have a little one sleeping in bed with them. The child typically still wakes a couple times a night to nurse and fall back asleep and the parents would like them to start sleeping in their crib in their own room.
This is a very common problem and can be fixed in a short period of time.
How should this transition happen?
Sleep is a skill. It takes practice. When little ones are used to falling asleep one way i.e. in our bed with you snuggling and nursing, there is an external strategy that has developed which needs to get some tweaking in order for your little one to learn the blissful journey into independent sleep.
Once a child knows how to fall asleep on their own, it is likely that those night wakes will disappear OR the child will be able to wake and drift right back on their own without your assistance.
I do not advocate crying it out and practice a gentler and more personal approach. The truth is, there will be protesting thru tears as little ones have no other way to express themselves or communicate. Change is hard for all of us- especially infants and toddlers. When you are using proper and positive methods, the crying will be very short term. If you want to avoid crying altogether, you can establish healthy sleep habits right from day 1. This way your newborn will have strong sleep skills on his side to get him to the nice long sleep and naps on his own without having to break any associations for sleep.
Key Steps For Getting From Bed to Crib:
Step 1: Choose an early bedtime. I suggest a bedtime of 7 and 7:30 pm. If you wait until after 8 pm, you could be dealing with an overtired child that is having a very hard time falling asleep and staying asleep as well as staying asleep past 6 am.
Step 2: Put your child to sleep in the same place every night. Being in a crib in their own room will help a child feel safe and secure.
Step 3: Create a predictable bedtime routine. Consistency and predictability are really important to a toddler and babies. When a child knows what to expect at bedtime, it makes it much easier for them to make the transition from waking to sleeping. It is important your child has your loving guidance and support as you teach them the new way and skills of transitioning to sleep on their own and in their own crib or bed.
An example of my fav bedtime routine is as follows:
- PJs, Massage
- Sleep Sac
- Nurse (KEEP AWAKE)*optional
- 1-2 Stories
- 1 Song, KISSES AND HUGS!
- Lights out!
Step 4: Put your infant or toddler to bed AWAKE (not even drowsy!)! This is the hardest step but the most crucial in independent sleep success! Crying is a normal part of the process however, it again, is very short term if you are consistent. Once the child starts to use their own internal strategies for sleep things just get better and better with consistency and practice.
Step 5: A small snuggly plush animal or a security blanket can be great tools to help with learning sleep skills. It can make a child feel very comfortable and help with the new skill he or she is learning.
Step 6: If your child wakes up during the night, wait a few minutes before going in to see if your child self settles. Many times a child will fall back asleep without you having to intervene. If after waiting and your child doesn’t not fall back asleep, make sure you go in and offer some comfort.
Sleep is simply an incredible healthy life skill to have. Studies have shown that poor sleep in children is linked to behavioral issues, depression, learning disabilities, diabetes and obesity.
Congrats on taking steps to improving your child’s sleep! Good luck and sleep well!