We know that many parents choose to co-sleep. We also know that there most often comes a time when parents and little ones are ready for their own sleep space. This can be a tricky transition, no matter your little one’s age, but it can be especially tricky if your little one is a toddler who as spent most of their life in your bed.
Can transitioning from co-sleeping to a toddler bed be done? Absolutely! It’s all about supporting your toddler, meeting their needs, incentivizing them, and being consistent yet responsive.
In this blog post, I am going to share with you all the tips and tricks for transitioning your toddler from co-sleeping to their own toddler bed, and walk you though:
Preparing your toddler for the transition to their toddler bed
First of all, we need to have realistic expectations. Your little one has spent years (potentially) falling asleep beside you, sleeping next to you, and waking up on you. A solid habit has been formed and just like any habit (notice I am not using the words “good” or “bad”) it is really hard to break a habit and make a change.
That being said, it can totally be done.
The success of this transition starts with being proactive and involving your toddler in the process. We want to set the stage for a smooth transition.
Start by having supports in place for your toddler. This can look like:
- reading books about going to bed that feature children in their own bed
- creating a visual schedule that outlines the steps of bedtime routine, ending with you saying goodnight to them in their own bed
- talking about the transition well in advance in a positive and exciting way
We want to lay the groundwork, so night one does not come as a surprise.
In can also be really helpful to involve your toddler in the process. So have them pick out their own bedsheets for the new “big kid” bed, let them “help” you set up their bedroom and their new toddler bed, etc.
Toddlers thrive when they have a sense of control and independence. We want to empower our little ones with this, but also support them and not push them out of their comfort zone.
Incentivizing your toddler
Once you have laid the foundation for a successful transition, it is time to get your toddler to buy into the new plan.
We want to foster their independence while also getting them to want what we want. In this situation, that means getting them motivated and excited about sleeping in their new bed.
Thank about your toddler in particular. What are their interests? What motivates them? How can you use this information to both of your advantages?
Some ideas are:
- Positive reinforcement – this can be extremely effective!
- Using a sticker chart (for every night they spend in their new bed, they get a sticker and they can cash their stickers in for a fun play date with you)
- A special stuffy that you attach meaning to and is associated with their new toddler bed (ie. a teddy that used to watch over Mama and now will keep your toddler safe and cozy at night)
Get creative! Bottom line is, we want to make this transition exiting and motivating, and to do that you need to tune into YOUR toddler.
Being consistent and yet responsive
The number one thing I want you to remember is that progress is not linear.
Say that again: progress is not linear.
This means that there are going to be some ups and downs through this process. It may be really hard some nights and your toddler may protest a lot, and other nights you may have more success and it is easier.
For some toddlers, a “rip off the band-aid” approach may be best. For others, a slow and gradual approach may work better. It’s all about tuning into your little one, choosing a plan that will work for them, and staying consistent with that plan while also being responsive.
If you choose an accelerated approach, you can jump right to naps and bedtime in their own bed. If your little one is protesting a lot, try laying with them in their bed as opposed to pulling them back into your bed.
For a more gradual approach, you may want to start with just naps in their own bed, and gradually move towards including bedtime. You can also try gradually moving from co-sleeping in your bed to them in their own bed over the course of a few weeks. For example, having your little one sleep next to you instead of touching you, then move to them sleeping on the floor beside your bed, then move to them sleeping in their own bed with you on the floor beside them, and gradually move to you not being in the room at all.
Whatever plan you choose, it’s important to hold your boundaries. So if you have decided that no more co-sleeping will happen in your bed, then you need to be responsive to your toddler but stay consistent with holding that boundary. For example, it may mean you are sleeping on the floor next to their bed for a while, if they are really struggling with sleeping alone.
Related Reading: Guide to Toddler Floor Beds
If you are having night wakings, the same plan of staying consistent but being responsive applies.
For night wakings, we want to determine what the need is. We are going to respond differently to a nightmare than we would to your toddler coming to ask for water when they have a cup of water right beside their bed, right?
So, first determine what the need is. If it is an emotional need, let’s try and meet it in a lower impact way. So for example, instead of letting them come into bed with you after a nightmare, walk them back to their room, but stay with them for a little bit. You can use strategies such as guided imagery or reframing what the “scary thing” was in their dream, to help them calm down and peacefully drift off back to sleep.
Whatever plan you choose, stay consistent with that plan and hold those boundaries while being creative as you respond to your toddler and still meet their needs.
Did you know I have a toddler guide pack that has troubleshooting guides on co-sleeping with your toddler, transitioning to a big kid bed, separation anxiety, nightmares and fears (and so much more!)? It’s full of everything you need to get you through the toddler years and you can check it out here!
Recap on transitioning from co-sleeping to a toddler bed
I hope this post on transitioning from co-sleeping to a toddler bed has been helpful and empowered you to know that it’s totally possible to get better sleep.
The important pieces to a successful transition are:
- Preparing your toddler ahead of time and having lots of supports in place
- Incentivizing your toddler so they are excited and buy in to the change
- Choose a transition plan that will work for your family, hold your boundaries, and also be responsive to your toddler’s needs
Like I mentioned above, this process will likely take some time and progress is not linear. It can be tricky, and a big piece will be tuning into your toddler and implementing strategies they work for them.
Please remember that you don’t have to do this alone! We have working with many families through this transition and we would love to help your family create a transition plan that works best for everyone, and be there to support you in making tweaks along the way.
We offer several different levels of support, to meet whatever your needs are. You can click here to check out all of our consultation options!