How to Stop Cosleeping and Bedsharing….

 

Before I start this blog I want to point out the difference between bedsharing and cosleeping:

Bedsharing = Sharing a bed with your child

Cosleeping = Sharing a room (but not necessarily bed) with your child.

This article is actually about moving on from bedsharing, but for SEO purposes I’ve included cosleeping in the title as many still refer to bedsharing as cosleeping.

So, for one reason or another you are thinking about moving on from bedsharing. One of the questions I’m most commonly asked is “when do children grow out of the need to sleep with somebody?”, or in other words – when do children naturally outgrow bedsharing? They all do of course, I have never heard of a teenager who still sleeps in the same bed as their parents. The answer however is commonly one that is not very popular. Most children will naturally want to stop bedsharing at some point between three and seven years of age.

My own daughter stopped bedsharing, entirely of her own accord, when she was four. You can read our story HERE

I can understand why some people may not to wait that long though, but if you are not totally child led is there a way to stop bedsharing that is gentle? I think there is and this is how I would do it.

1. Night wean first.

If you are still feeding your child at night (particularly if you breastfeed) I would not consider stopping bedsharing until they are night weaned. if you do you are likely to experience lots of disturbance at night and your child has two big things to handle at once, which I don’t believe is fair. I also believe it is gentler to night wean while your child still has the close proximity of you for reassurance. For my nightweaning advice see HERE.

2. Introduce other comfort cues.

Your child will need things in his or her own room to help them to feel secure in your absence. Think about conditioning a certain smell, a certain light, a certain blanket, a certain story book, certain music (for my suggestions see HERE) for AT LEAST six weeks while you are still bedsharing. The aim here is that these all make the child feel secure and remind them of you, even when you’re not there.

3. Get the child used to their own room

You can do this point at the same time as number two. You should set your child’s bedroom up at least two months before you plan to stop bedsharing. Ideally they will have a big say in the decor. You should play in their bedroom with them as much as possible every single day, ideally for at least half an hour. They need to view their bedroom as a really happy and positive place to be.

nap

4. Ditch the idea of a cot or crib

In my experience babies and toddler who have previously bedshared will very rarely ever be happy to sleep in a cot or a crib. I would go so far as to say most babies dislike cots and cribs, but those who have bedshared seem to have a special hatred of them. Save your time and your energy and don’t try to get them to sleep in one. Instead my top tip is to go straight for a floor bed. A floor bed is simply a mattress on the floor. You could use the one from your cot or crib, or you could use a single bed mattress. I would suggest you don’t go bigger than a single mattress however as the extra space can be a little overwhelming for babies and make them feel less ‘cosy’ and secure. You may want to use something underneath the mattress for air flow, such as a trundle bed base or bed slats (you can buy these easily online, they are often called ‘replacement bed slats’ and tend to come held together by two lines of thick tape). Of course you need to make sure the bedroom is as ‘child friendly’ as possible and posing no threats to safety (secure furniture and blind cords etc..and for under 12 months stick with sleeping bags, not duvets). For more floor bed information check out THIS WEBSITE. The beauty of a floor bed is it allows you to still cuddle the child to sleep and then gently roll away, without trying to put them down (which invariably wakes them). Here are some floor bed examples (photos courtesy of Kirstie Lucas, Amy Jones, Lucy and Lee):

 

5. Room in.

This builds on point four. For the first two weeks of your child being in their own bedroom you should ‘room in’ with them, that means sleeping with them in their bed for the whole night for a fortnight (if they are on a cot or crib mattress you may want to use a bed roll or air mattress next to them). After two weeks, when your child is now used to sleeping in their own room you can slowly roll away from them once they are asleep. If they wake in the night then you simply lay alongside them and cuddle them until they are asleep again.

The whole process from decision to (hopefully) sleeping alone in their own room, after you have night weaned takes around two months. It’s not quick, however it works and most importantly it doesn’t distress your child (or you!).

One last little point to consider, think about the timing. Don’t be tempted to move your child because you’re going back to work, the extra closeness to you at night will most likely help them with the transition of missing you during the day. Similarly don’t move them during a period of separation anxiety, you’re likely to make it worse. As a general rule avoid 8 to 15 months for this reason. Don’t move them either just before, or just after a new baby arrives. You don’t want them to feel that they have been moved out to make space for their new sibling. Becoming a new big brother or sister is hard enough as it is. If you want to move your child to make space for a new baby don’t do it either side of a new baby being due/arriving. Lastly, there will always be times when your child needs to be close to you again, particularly when they are ill or in pain. Don’t be scared to let them back into your bed again temporarily when it happens.

Sarah

For more tips on baby, toddler and preschooler sleep check out my sleep books:

 

About SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.
This entry was posted in Babies, Preschoolers, Toddlers, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to How to Stop Cosleeping and Bedsharing….

  1. Fiona says:

    Helpful article, thank you. I appreciate the guidance about not moving a child either side of when a sibling might be due – but in the context of expanding a family when, then, IS a good time? I’ve thought about trying to do it before getting pregnant – but what if I don’t, or not for a long time? Then I would have preferred child #1 to stay with me. Or do you mean *immediately* before/after – would early on in a pregnancy give them enough time to adjust?

  2. Jessica Kinder says:

    My 2yr old has been in a floor bed for about 10months and goes to sleep really well (naptime and nights). She however doesn’t stay in her bed the whole night and normally migrates anywhere between midnight and 4am. We would like her to stay in her bed for the majority of the night and I’m really struggling with tips on how to achieve this. Do you think the ‘room in’ would help her? Perhaps if I slept on the floor next to her for two weeks, would she then know that that her bed is safe and comfortable to sleep in all night? I realise I am giving her mixed messages by allowing her to come into my bed some nights and not other nights, so I’m wanting to give her clear communication about what to do. I’m also scared of the crying as I don’t like the CIO method. Any advise would be welcome! Thankyou, from Jess who loves her sleep!

  3. Zoe says:

    My son is 11 months old and has bed shared with us pretty much since birth. At first accidentally, and then when i realised that was really how he would prefer to sleep and for safety reasons..i got organised and co-slept safely. I have been off work with him for 10 months and my husband has taken the last two months as shared parental leave – while i go back full time for that period. James has been in a floor bed in our room for the last 3-4 months – usually with me sleeping on the floor next to him. 7 weeks ago, i moved his bed into his room, and i have been sleeping on the floor next to him. He has a patchwork quilt that we sleep under (comfort item), and his Ewan the dream sheep; he loves his bedroom and we spend time in it every day. I go back to part time work in september, and i hoping this will be a good time for me to sneak back to my own room?
    I am away overnight for the first time tonight, and am anxious about how its going to go – james is BF still, im worried it might be a bit of a shock for him.

  4. I’ve got the same question as Jessica.. How do you manage to keep your little one in bed all night? My daughter is in a floor bed and she goes to bed fine, but she always migrates to ours in the night. She 2yrs, and has been in her room for about 6 month now.

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